Coffee House

Foreign Office clear out continues: Mark Simmonds stands down as FCO minister

11 August 2014

Number 10 has today announced that Mark Simmonds, the Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness, is stepping down as a Foreign Office minister – and will not stand as an MP at the next election.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said that ‘the decision was made before the situation in Gaza and Israel had developed’ and that he had told the Prime Minister he wanted to step down on 4 August.

Indeed, David Cameron’s reply to Simmonds’ resignation letter says, rather pointedly:

‘This is something we agreed some weeks ago and a decision I know you have given a huge amount of thought to over recent months.’

Even if his decision has nothing to do with the government’s foreign policy (Baroness Warsi did hint that other FCO ministers had disagreed with the official line on Gaza), it means the Foreign Office now contains even fewer experienced politicians after William Hague’s departure. Simmonds has been replaced by James Duddridge.


I understand that Simmonds’ decision is related to his own constituency. One of his party colleagues tells me:

‘He’s under massive pressure in his constituency. Party infrastructure evaporated. UKIP all over him.’

And he has told his local paper that the impact on his young family has been ‘so huge and so negative that I’m not prepared to tolerate it anymore’.

Here is the full exchange of letters between Simmonds and the Prime Minister:

Click on the images to view a larger version.

140807 Simmonds, Mark- PM letter copy


PM Letter Simmonds copy

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  • chris_xxxx

    Mark Simmonds is leaving because his constituents have had enough of uncontrolled immigration from Eastern Europe and will be voting UKIP.

  • saffrin

    Smart move, Mark Simmonds saves himself from the embarrassment of losing his seat.
    MP for Boston and Skegness 2015, 100% UKIP guaranteed.

  • evad666

    Am I the only one to note the increased number of purple ties in debates? Is this a sign of closet UKIPers in the commons?

  • evad666

    The purple wave is coming to sweep corrupt Parliamentarians into the gutter.

  • edithgrove

    His story does not make sense. He made half a million profit on his house in Putney when he had to give up mortgage relief and he and his wife are pulling in about £150,000 + some private work. He doesn’t want to live in the far reaches of London (Putney?) where rents are affordable and the voters live. I guess we’ll have to wait six months for the real story. (Ooh I think I just guessed it.)

  • Blindsideflanker

    Who? I am a political anorak but even I was unaware of his existence, presence in Parliament.or that he was a Minister.

  • El_Sid

    What are the rules, you can’t take a consultancy or non-exec within a year of being a minister? Would give him time for a nice little holiday after the election….

  • Sue Posi-Tory

    Perhaps Mr Simmonds needs to join the real world.
    Leaving home on a Monday morning to get to Lunnon for mid afternoon and then leaving on Thursday afternoon, bears little relationship with the working life of many who leave home on Sunday afternoon and return late Friday, or before dawn on Monday returning on Saturday morning.The life of an MP is cossetted, well paid and exceedingly well expensed.

  • Roger Hudson

    If the Tory machine is really worried about Boston and Skegness then Cameron is going to lose big in 2015, UKIP will screw up Tory seats and Milipede will get in by default.

    • Holly

      Where I live it’s been Labour since the stone age, and going by the comments of folks here, who don’t ‘whisper’ their chats any more, it is going to come to an end next year.
      Labour WILL lose.
      Who am I to argue.

  • Ken

    He is like all Tories – useless!

    • Holly

      Who are you on about….
      Come on….
      Spit it out.
      Oh ‘an don’t bother replying for a bit, ‘cos I’m off to cook food.

      • Ken

        The man who the article is referring to you imbecile, Mark Simmonds.

  • George Smiley

    Why did they wait a week before announcing this? I can understand they may want to delay announcing after Warsi resigned but she went on the 5th, the day after Simmonds told the PM he was resigning. The timing of this now looks awful.
    Also, who resigns from the FCO a fortnight into the recess, whilst there’s several major foreign policy incidents playing out and you agree with the FCO’s approach to them?
    If this was pre-Leveson my first guess would be that he was about to get a kicking from one of the Sundays. That seems less likely now and so I remain mystified.

    • The Masked Marvel

      That, and it would look rather shambolic for the FO minister to walk away right when it all started kicking off in Ukraine, or more recently in Gaza. When would it have been a good time, you know? Better to do it on a weekend while everyone is screaming about the Jews and it’s less obviously something Britain could affect. Still, his constituency is probably pleased.

  • Airey Belvoir

    This was the chap who missed the key Syria vote because he was ‘discussing Rwanda’ with the fragrant Justine Greening. All above board, no doubt, but embarrassing echoes of the ‘Ugandan Discussions’ of another era. Ooh-er, Matron!

  • Smithersjones2013

    I applaud Izzy for adding two and two up and trying to get 5 but I really don’t think this has much to do with Simmonds view of Gaza or anything to do with his ministerial career. The only important phrase in this is:

    ‘He’s under massive pressure in his constituency. Party infrastructure evaporated. UKIP all over him.’

    Clearly the Tories have given up on Boston and Skegness (just as they have given up on Thanet South) and would rather a faceless wannabe defeated than a sitting junior Minister. This is a face saving exercise for both Simmonds and the party. After all who wants the notoriety of being the first sitting Tory MP to be defeated by UKIP? No doubt he will take his place in the House Of Lords in due course?

    So another scalp for UKIP……

    The only remaining question is who’s next?

    • Holby18

      I do not think the Tories have at all given up on this constituency and i should know as I read the local press and know some of the senior party members. I think the local party want a more active constituency MP and Mr Simmonds has not been able to do that whilst in the FCO which involves a lot of travel.

      A reminder also, that in 1997 the seat nearly went to Labour. It is not as safe a seat as you assume.

  • Holby18

    There is no doubt that his seat is at risk from UKIP who are making massive gains in rural communities. Boston was once a small market town and has changed dramatically. There has been many organised protests against immigration and the impact on services, street drinking, litter etc is huge. All of it is a shock to local people.

    Added to that, Mr Simmonds has apparently not been in the constiuency much due to his role in the FCO. Prominent Conservative Councillors have been on TV saying that he needed to devote more time to the area to counteract UKIP.

    He also states the negative impact on his family relating to his job and he is quite right to put them first. Finally, he was a successful businessman before and will no doubt become one again. It is rather nice that people move in and out of politics. Much better for the electorate rather than the old hands who do not always put much effort in to constituencies particularly in safe seats.

    • Alex Marten

      As the Newark byelection showed, Ukip can’t win under the first past the post system.

      • terence patrick hewett

        So far.

      • Streben80

        As with all parties, you need a certain demographic mix in a constituency to win – Newark wasnt suited to the UKIP vote, a win would have been exceptional, not to mention the vast resources the Tories put in which they cannot repeat across the country next year.
        I strongly suspect that the UKIP breakthrough will be on the eastern coast or in a deprived Labour area, not in a true blue Tory area.

      • Roger Hudson

        No, the first past the post lets in Labour after UKIP weaken the Tory vote.

        • foxoles

          Tories should be careful to stay on the right side of UKIP then. If what you say is true, they need UKIP more than they need the LibDems.

      • global city

        You can actually break your fingers if you cross them that tight.

    • ArchiePonsonby

      I grew up in Boston and it has been ruined beyond all recognition – by so-called “property developers” – mostly. Anything would be an improvement over its present condition!

  • Magnolia

    I think Baroness Warsi went because she thinks the PM will lose the next general election. I think she is wrong in that. She has set herself up for a post Westminster career by making her interests plain in her resignation letter. Probably she hopes to take over from Tony Blair as Middle East Peace Envoy.
    Everyone has to make choices in life and some of us reach a point in our lives when we want to go on a different route. I presume that is the case here.

    • Barakzai

      ‘Probably she hopes to take over from Tony Blair as Middle East Peace Envoy.’

      To ‘make peace’ on whose behalf, exactly?

      Or are your words code for ‘she wants to boost her bank account unconscionably making making money as did that self-professed straight kinda guy who helped George W liberate Iraq?

      Anyone who thinks Warsi might be a reliable collaborator in any future venture is extremely unwise . . .

  • sep912

    Whatever the pressure, surely, for the Foreign Secretary to lose one minister is unfortunate, to lose two in the space of a week, is careless. IMO: Hammond doesn’t give the impression of being a good FS. Hague was better by spades. Hammond seems to be reading off an autoque every time he speaks to the media.

    • alabenn

      Well at least he wont be looking with cow eyes at Brad Pitt or was it that Jolie bird, not sure which.

    • Holby18

      I disagree. I like William Hague but in the last year he has gone through the motions and has not been too interested in much. I think PH has made an excellent start – i like his matter of fact tone – very reassuring.

      • saffrin

        Hauge hasn’t been too interested in much ever since he was exposed as a bender.
        No credibility.

    • ButcombeMan

      But surely Hague was latterly, largely an absentee landlord? He seemed to have lost interest in the really big issues of international diplomacy, worthy though his war rape thing was.

      Hammond is a dry stick but he might cut through the way the FO wastes our money, on itself.

      That will not make him popular but good managers are often not popular.

  • anyfool

    Do the Tory constituency polls tell them that UKIP are stronger than other polls suggest.
    If safe Tory seats like this are at risk what are Labour seats like, could that be a reason that Labour now pretend they are against immigration, against immigrants sending benefits home, it is all a pretence but something has them both spooked.

    • Holly

      Labour, and now the Conservatives under Cameron, do not merit our vote any longer.
      They have got us into a situation where we have no control over who comes here, who stays, and even less ability to get rid of those intending us great harm.
      That I think ain’t gonna change any time soon.
      We are fortunate as a nation to have an election within months, and I will grab the opportunity to try and get rid of the politicians who put us all in harms way, yet have no intention of changing anything to alter that.

      In the past week we have had a British MP in Bradford spouting inane bile, and a member of the Lords, who sits at the top table of power, resigning because they did not think enough was being done for Muslims, which they conveniently hid under the ‘minority banner’.

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I have had more than enough of being told that the majority in the UK are not doing enough for the minority, yet I am not given the same discrimination rights, freedom of speech, or allowed to display our own religious symbols that this country has followed for years.
      We are silenced, berated as racist, and criminalised.

      • Ken

        I certainly will not be voting UKIP – a party which wants to privatise the NHS, erode workers rights even more than the Tories, a party which is even nastier than the Tories.

        • Streben80

          Privatising the NHS isnt UKIP policy, nor will it be. It was a Labour Party policy that should not be repeated by any party.

          • petehodge

            Don’t let the facts get in the way of a convenient lie. UKIP privatising the NHS? How could they when the Tories are already doing it. There will be nothing left to sell.

            • foxoles

              Tories already doing it, supported by LibDems, and Labour started it. So it seems bizarre for streben80 to level the accusation against the one party who isn’t doing it.

              • Streben80

                The party that started it is very relevant because it is that same party that pretends it didnt get its hands dirty with the private sector. So what is happening now is the legacy of Labour but their supporters dont have the stones to admit they were complicit in the privatisation of the NHS.

        • Holly

          You mean open it up to the private sector like Burhham & Labour did, and cut the diktats from Europe that is hampering businesses?
          …And WHERE in my comment did I mention Tories, because I don’t think I did. I also can not find the bit where I asked you to vote UKIP, or indeed where I mentioned UKIP at all, but hey…
          You also failed to mention anything about any other points in my comment as well, so maybe you just forgot while you where ‘spinning’ eh.

        • evad666

          Well Labour started that ball rolling.

        • CO Jones

          Unless someone, e.g. UKIP, sorts out the immigration problem, the probabilty is that, in thespace of a few years, there won’t be an NHS or anything else that is recognisably British.

          Time to get priorities right, and deal with first things first. Vote UKIP.

    • Smithersjones2013

      UKIP polled over 50% in the Euro elections in the Boston area.

      • Alex Marten

        Euro elections are totally different from General elections.

        Now Ukip will come under much tougher scrutiny.

        • terence patrick hewett

          Wow tougher than the last year: that really is scary.

          • Streben80

            I think they may have peaked too soon on the scrutiny as a political weapon, it isnt as if they left a stone unturned and each generation of UKIP candidate goes through ever tougher procedures.
            Even at council level we are now checking all social media history on all candidates, it is quite a task, but it does give clues about the political ideas of any potential candidate so well worth the time. Better now that next year.

          • petehodge

            It wasn’t tough scrutiny. It was blatant lies and misrepresentation.

            • Streben80

              Or politics 2014 as it is otherwise known :-)

        • Holly

          Let us hope this time, the MSM cuts the cr@p then eh.

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