Warsi resignation: is she going to publish anti-Cameron diary?

Aug 6, 2014
The Mole

How to ruin a prime minister's holiday: walk out on principle and get other Tories to take your side

Rob Stothard/Getty Images

There are two good reasons for David Cameron to fear that the shock-waves caused by yesterday's resignation of Baroness Warsi are not yet over.

First, there's the threat that Warsi is about to publish a diary blowing the lid off her misgivings about Cameron's policies on ethnic minorities and terrorism, as well as the "mealy-mouthed" attitude to Israel's behaviour over Gaza. 

Second, there's the possibility that another Conservative government minister is about to join Warsi in resigning over the same issue.

The diary threat has been raised by Paul Goodman, a former Tory MP and Telegraph journalist. He blogged yesterday on ConservativeHome, the grass-roots Tory website of which he is executive editor, that Cameron failed to sack Warsi in his recent reshuffle because he was afraid she would publish a diary she is keeping.

"Warsi hasn't denied claims that she is keeping a diary," said Goodman. "He [Cameron] will have feared that he would be damned, were she dismissed, by pre-election publication unfairly claiming that his leadership is tainted by tokenism and anti-Muslim prejudice. The irony is that he is now open to exactly this possibility." 

There seems little doubt that, while her resignation as a foreign minister was "principled", it was also highly personal. She humiliated Cameron by dropping her bombshell - via Twitter - just when the Prime Minister and his wife, Samantha, were taking part in a photo–op to mark the start of their holiday in Portugal. 

As Magnus Djaba, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, said while reviewing the papers on Sky News last night: "If someone resigned on my holiday I would know they were meaning to harm me. I think the timing of it tells you it is a personal attack."

Predictably, the Tory high command has closed ranks against Warsi, who – let's be blunt – many Tories cannot stand because she ruffled so many feathers while she was party chairman.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, showed a flash of anger when he said her resignation was “frankly unnecessary” – by which he meant it was an egotistical stunt. 

Philip Hammond, who replaced William Hague as Foreign Secretary in last month’s reshuffle, said: "I do find it rather surprising that she has chosen now, this particular moment, to take this step when, in fact, we are now at long last seeing some relief, seeing some progress on the issues about which she was so passionately concerned."

Warsi also upset the Westminster hacks. Tom Newton Dunn, political editor of The Sun, told Sky News that she had failed to return his phone calls yesterday. Instead of speaking to the right-of-centre newspaper which had supported her, she had given exclusive interviews to two Left-leaning media figures - Mehdi Hassan, former political editor of the New Statesman (now at the Huffington Post) and Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News.

Although Newton Dunn stressed that Warsi's resignation was "principled", he suggested she was trying to inflict maximum personal hurt on Cameron. He said one had to go back to James Purnell's walkout on Gordon Brown in 2009 to find a previous example of such a "withering, damaging" personal attack on the prime minister.

The question now is whether another minister is going to walk out of the government. Warsi told Channel 4 News: “I’ve had a minister in a late-night conversation talking about resignation. There is real concern amongst Conservatives on this issue.”

It is true that even some of the most loyal Tories appear to sympathise with her anxieties over Cameron's policy on Israel, if not the style of her resignation.

Sir Nicholas Soames, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill and a former defence minister, tweeted: “The government needs to note and learn from the resignation of Sayeeda Warsi she was right to leave over a matter of such great importance.”

Former justice minister Crispin Blunt praised her decision as “brave and principled”, while Damian Green, the former immigration minister, said she was a “brave woman who always speaks her mind”.

London mayor Boris Johnson also appeared to back her when, in marked contrast to Cameron, he described events in Gaza as “utterly horrifying and unacceptable”. He added: “I would certainly say it [the way Israel is behaving] is disproportionate."  

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems have used her resignation to distance themselves from their coalition partners and step up calls for arms sales to Israel to be stopped.

Lib-Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable said he and Nick Clegg have been pressing for a ban on arms sales to Israel. "We have been making this case inside government but have not yet been able to get agreement for this position. I hope and expect that to change shortly."

Such a move would have been unthinkable before Warsi made her stand.

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