It is curious that Baroness Warsi left her resignation until the very day when the UK’s policy of working with the UN, Egypt and the USA to secure a ceasefire and peace talks over Gaza finally appears to have achieved something. It is also curious that she delayed resigning over seeking stronger language and a tougher policy until the PM had backed the UN’s condemnation of the attack on the school, had warned Israel not to use disproportionate force and had started a review of arms sales.
The background to her resignation is clearer if you read her whole letter of resignation. It is a letter about her friends and relationships in government, as much as it is about the horrors of Gaza. She is as critical of Mr Cameron’s recent reshuffle, as she is of his words on Gaza.
The letter says “In many ways the absence of the experience and expertise of colleagues like Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve has over the last few weeks become very apparent”. She praises Mr Hague and says ” He dismantled foreign policy making by sofa government and restored decision making and dignity to the Foreign Office. There is however great unease across the Foreign Office, amongst both Ministers and senior officials, in the way recent decisions are being made”.
In other words, the Baroness seems to say she does not like the new tone of foreign policy based on a clearer view of the UK’s interests and on Mr Hammond’s excellent proposal that it should be a British office, explaining the UK to the rest of the world and pursuing British interests, more than a foreign office explaining the ways of abroad and especially the EU to us.
I disagree strongly with these criticisms of Mr Cameron’s reshuffle. I did not think Ken Clarke was making our EU policy, but many outside government thought he was so his departure clarifies that. I do think we need as a Foreign Secretary someone prepared to say we have to leave the EU if no satisfactory new relationship is forthcoming, something Mr Hague never ventured. I do think we need to sort out the question of the UK’s relationship to the European courts, where Mr Grieve was a faithful adviser who seemed fatalistically to accept their power.
Baroness Warsi has muddled her resignation by its timing over Gaza. More importantly, by criticising a good shift in the way government works and thinks on the mighty issue of Europe, she has put herself at odds with many Conservatives on an issue that detracts from her stance and focus on the Middle East.