Boris Johnson’s handling of Welsh Secretary role ‘major mis-step’ before resigning as Prime Minister
Boris Johnson’s handling of the Welsh Secretary role was a “major mis-step” during his last few hours before resigning as Prime Minister, according to a new account of his downfall.
According to Sebastian Payne, the Financial Time’s Whitehall editor who is publishing a new book The Fall of Boris Johnson, the former Prime Minister had accidentally attempted to find a replacement Welsh Secretary before Simon Hart resigned.
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart resigned from the UK Government on 6 July, becoming the third member of the cabinet to do so amid Boris Johnson’s leadership crisis.
But the new account suggests that he had given Boris Johnson leeway to stay but only resigned when phoned by current Welsh Secretary, David TC Davies, to be told that they had sounded him out for the Welsh Secretary job.
“Hart received a call from his chum David TC Davies, the junior Welsh office minister, who said he had been asked to go to Number 10 to succeed him as secretary of state,” Sebastian Payne said in his account.
“Davies said he would not take the role and thought it was ‘disgraceful’ they were trying to ease Hart out. Number 10 had assumed Hart would quit in the morning, but among all the chaos they had acted too soon.”
According to Sebastian Payne, Hart called Heaton-Harris, and said: “You’ve already offered my job to someone else, so we might as well call it quits now.” The chief whip then apologised but the “damage was done”.
According to the account, Simon Hart had gone to see Boris Johnson earlier that afternoon and told him he thought his time was up.
But rather than resign he had then taken Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris aside and handed him his resignation letter, but with instructions that it should be disregarded if matters improved for Boris Johnson.
“If circumstances have altered overnight and he comes to the view this is unsustainable, chuck my letter in the bin and we’ll say no more about it,” he is reported to have said. “But if this thing is still raging in the morning, I will have to step aside.”
Simon Hart was only the third cabinet minister to resign, after Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
Monmouth MP David TC Davies did eventually become Welsh Secretary under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart is now Chief Whip.
Under Liz Truss’ short-lived premiership, the roles were carried out by Sir Robert Buckland and Wendy Morton.
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