Resignations at No. 10 threaten the Union

The latest of the Prime Minister's resignations, Luke Graham, a former MP.
Luke Graham (Source: Chris McAndrew, via. Wikimedia Commons, and Robert Sharp, via. Flickr).
By Morgan Perry | Political Editor

After last year’s ‘Cummings and goings’ at 10 Downing Street, there have been more resignations from those closest to the Prime Minister, including one that threatens the future of the Union. 

Boris Johnson was, only last week, first faced with the resignation of his closest advisor on the Union, and then nearly oversaw the departure of another advisor on ethnic minorities.  

Luke Graham, the former Conservative MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, lost his seat in the 2019 general election to the SNP.

Soon after, he joined No. 10 as the PM’s advisor on the future of the Union, tasked with fending off rising support for the SNP, and subsequently Scottish independence. 

Graham’s departure comes at a key moment in the history of the UK, but he is reported to have left after those in Downing Street disagreed about how to counteract the rising tide of independence.

“There was a lack of faith in letting him do what he needed to do. A lot of his efforts were frustrated by other people in the building,” one source told the Financial Times

Recent support for Scottish independence has placed those in favour as high as 54 percent. This is a significant increase from the 2014 referendum result, where just 44 percent voted in favour. 

Scottish First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon has also indicated that she will move forward with plans to run another independence referendum in Scotland, should her party win a majority at the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May. 

Given the increasing support for independence, No. 10 are, therefore, justifiably concerned about the future break-up of the United Kingdom, and the Prime Minister’s latest resignations.

A royal to save the UK

Johnson himself recently completed a visit to Scotland, against the wishes of the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, in an attempt to rally support for the UK from Scots. 

He won’t be going it alone on his mission to save the Union, however. 

There were reportedly plans to send Prince Edward – the Queen’s youngest son – and Sophie – his wife – as a means of fending off the rise of the SNP and building support for the United Kingdom. 

The Independent suggests that the pair could have been asked to take up full time residence in Holyrood, directly opposite the Scottish Parliament building. 

Though these plans have not been confirmed, the response of SNP MP Chris Law indicates that the plans are unlikely to go down well with those north of the border:

Closer to Westminster, however, Boris Johnson has already moved to replace Luke Graham following his resignation. 

He’ll be replaced by Oliver Lewis, a key Conservative actor in the Vote Leave movement, and part of the Brexit trade negotiations. 

As head of a “beefed-up union unit”, he’ll be responsible for ensuring the integrity of the Union moving forward. 

At a time of growing support for the likes of pro-Welsh independence movement YesCymru, and increasing tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol on the island of Ireland, Lewis is certainly likely to have his work cut out. 

Political inequality

The re-shuffle in the Union unit wasn’t the only change this week; another of Boris Johnson’s advisors – that responsible for minorities – also reportedly contemplated resigning.

Samuel Kasumu blamed tensions within the government, and “politics steeped in division” for his near resignation. 

In the letter, as published by the BBC, he also nodded to the conduct of equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, who publicly criticised the work of a black journalist on Twitter after she contacted her office for a comment. 

After raising the issue with higher-ups, he noted the lack of response. 

Kamusu said: “I believe the Ministerial Code was breached. However, more concerning than the act, was the lack of response internally. It was not ok or justifiable, but somehow nothing was said.

“I waited, and waited, for something from the senior leadership team to even point to an expected standard, but it did not materialise.”

It was Kamusu’s intention to stand down before the end of May. After he spoke with the MP for Stratford-on-Avon, Nadhim Zahawi, on Thursday, February 4, however, he withdrew his letter. 

A sign of more to come

These likely won’t be the last of the resignations for the Prime Minister. 

Some have already been quick to point out that he’s overseen more ministerial resignations than any other recent PM, and he’s only just over a year into the job. 

Johnson’s biggest challenge, however, will be ensuring he can fend off a potential crisis across the Irish sea, ensure the effective roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine and maintain the integrity of the Union. 

It’s certainly no mean feat. 

Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.

Politics Morgan Perry

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