Rory Stewart breaks with Westminster tradition by putting his job on the line
Chris Grayling appears to be taking precisly the opposite approach.
According to a recent book by Theo Barclay, most ministerial resignations come after the politician in question has done their best to desperately cling on despite having fouled up. Barclay writes of how “the flailing minister, enmeshed in a scandal or dogged by allegations of misconduct, attempts to hold out but eventually succumbs to the inevitable, their reputation lying in tatters”.
But Rory Stewart is not one for following Westminster convention, it seems.
Having announced a £10m spending blitz on 10 of the most challenging prisons in the UK, the prisons minister told BBC Breakfast that he had an unusual move up his sleeve.
“I will quit if I haven’t succeeded in 12 months in reducing the level of drugs and violence in those prisons,” said Stewart, who is known as one of the more thoughtful creatures in Westminster and is occasionally talked of as a possible future Tory leader.
He added: “I believe in the prison service, I believe in our prison officers, I believe this can be turned around. I want you to judge me on those results and I will resign if I don't succeed."
Asked how much of a reduction he would consider a success - 25% or 10% - Stewart said vaguely that it would be "something of that sort".
The Eton-educated minister’s comments have gone down well on social media - with various punters making unflattering comparisons with the secretary of state for transport.
Despite numerous calls for his departure, Chris Grayling has never explained what it would take for him to stand down and he remains in his job despite having knocked a cyclist off their bike within weeks of becoming transport secretary and then presided over multiple crises in different parts of the country while telling parliament that he’s “not a specialist in rail matters”.
Postscript: Was Rory doing an Estelle?
August 22: A reader has been in touch with a valid observation: "Worth remembering that Ester Morris did resign as SoS for Education in 2002 for failing to meet literacy and numeracy targets? So Rory’s pledge isn’t entirely unprecedented?"