Damian Green, who effectively holds the position of Deputy Prime Minister, has been fired from his role as First Secretary of State. Upon the production of a report which was looking into allegations about Green’s behaviour with the journalist Kate Maltby, May has asked for Green’s resignation, and he has dutifully complied. This is basically as close to being told “ You’re fired” as it gets in politics.
Normally when senior political figures resign the media views everything through the lens of whether or not the resigning individual was an all or enemy of the Prime-minister / Leader of the party. What’s important to note here though is that Theresa May has not just fired an ally, she has fired a very old friend. This is a decision that would have undoubtedly been difficult for May, and we should give credit where it’s due. It was in her power to ignore this, but rather than leave Green in position she has got rid of him.
Green’s absence in Government leaves a gaping hole in the PM’s support network and could lead to further weakening as well. David Davis, previously threatened to resign himself if Green was got rid of, because apparently, the right for middle-aged white men to make inappropriate passes at young women is a hill that the Brexit Secretary is prepared to die on, but in typical David Davis style, he has completely failed to do this.
What does all this mean for the Government? Not much at the moment. May’s position is now stronger than it once was as a result of her finding a way to move the Brexit talks forward, so it is possible for her to weather the loss of an ally. The real impact of this though, is that we’ve had the first real scalp from allegations of sexual harassment come to Westminster.
That Green’s behaviour was found to have breached the ministerial code is an important precedent for the future. The culture in Westminster of dodgy come-ons, MP’s hanging around in the Sports bar and hitting on parliamentary staff means that there have already been a number of allegations thrown at various MP’s. That a senior ally to the Prime Minister can be dealt with for this sort of behaviour means that basically ANYONE can be dealt with. A message has now been sent, and failure of any party to act now opens them up a vulnerability their opponents can now exploit. I’d like to think that the right thing gets done in politics because it’s the right thing, but we all know that’s not really the case. From my perspective, I welcome any move that puts the feet of sexual abusers and harassers to the fire, cause, we are now that little bit closer to ensuring each and every one of them gets burned.