I expected no quarter in the slaughter of the Cameroons, and none was given.
I have what the police refer to as “previous” when it comes to my relationship with the new Prime Minister. Ken Clark was absolutely right: she is a ‘very difficult woman’ but, as I have said in this column before, she will make a formidable PM at a time when we certainly need one. Our European partners require, once again, to benefit from the presence of a very difficult British woman.
The trickiest part of getting the sack was actually receiving the telephone call. Number 10 rang at eight on Friday evening, telling me to expect a call from the PM in twenty minutes. They then rang every half hour to apologise for the delay – until 10.30 when they announced that it would now take place on Saturday morning. Well, I had a pretty busy Saturday morning in the north end of the Forest where mobile coverage is not good. Unknown to me, unanswered calls from Number 10 were clicking through to my wife’s phone and she was texting me manically. When I finally got one of her texts, I found a spot in Nomansland where I could get a signal, phoned in to Number 10 and waited for three quarters of an hour, before I gave up and pushed on to New Milton. Eventually I got the call – and the sack – at one o’clock just as I arrived at a voluntary organisation’s summer lunch.
I have enjoyed my time as a minister and I will miss it. I will particularly miss my private office staff and the civil servants at DFID, of whom I have grown very fond. They work terribly hard, they are remarkable people who achieve extraordinary things.
Lord Digby Jones, whom Gordon Brown made a minister, described the experience as thoroughly dehumanising. As I have said, I enjoyed it and I will miss it, but think I understand what he was getting at: There were sometimes occasions when decisions were made on my patch, about which I wasn’t consulted at all, but nevertheless I was required to explain and defend them. I expect there will be plenty more of that about for ministers.
Now however, the boot will be on the other foot: I will be in the position of holding them to account. No quarter!