Andrew Smith: 'I want to spend more time with my family'

Andrew Smith quit the Cabinet for a more enjoyable home life. Was it an excuse before he was pushed? James Burleigh recalls others who stepped down citing love, and investigates what happened next
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Indy Politics

'I play football with the kids, go to assembly, and I have tea with the family'

'I play football with the kids, go to assembly, and I have tea with the family'

Alan Milburn, 46, Secretary of State for Health

Mr Milburn retired from his cabinet duties 14 months ago to spend more time with his partner Ruth, a doctor, and their two sons, Joe, 13, and Danny, seven.

An entry on his website reads: "When I gave up my cabinet post last summer, it was the best decision I've ever taken. Unusually in politics, I did so voluntarily. I wasn't pushed. I chose to go. I did so because I had come to realise one simple thing: I couldn't have everything. Reconciling a demanding, 24-hour-a-day career with anything remotely resembling a normal family life had become, for me at least, impossible.

"In those days the time I had at home was more snatched than quality time. In the end, something had to give. Mine was a very personal choice to be around more to be with Ruth and my kids as they grow up. It was - and is - undoubtedly the right one for me and my family. Not that life is perfect. As an MP, I still have to be away from my home in the North-east to be at Westminster."

Strange, then, that the Blair loyalist spends much of his time researching ideas for Labour's next election manifesto. What's more, speculation at Westminster is at fever-pitch, with newspaper headlines over the weekend suggesting he is being lined up to replace Ian McCartney as Labour Party chairman.

He may be given another cabinet job or a role planning the election manifesto with Mr McCartney.

Sources close to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, suggest he has been fighting to keep his friend Mr McCartney, as Labour chairman for the election campaign. "He does a good job," Mr Prescott has said.

At any rate, Mr Milburn appears to be at the centre of a Blair-Brown spat, with the Chancellor reluctant to see the return of such a strong supporter of the Prime Minister. All should become clear this week, when Mr Blair unveils his reshuffle.

'If I spend 10 years as a housewife, that's not so bad'

Zoe Ball, 33, Former Radio 1 DJ

In March 2000, the archetypal ladette radio DJ gave up her £750,000 job on BBC Radio 1's Breakfast show to "get fit and healthy and plan a family" with her husband Norman Cook, the singer Fat Boy Slim.

When she first announced her decision to quit, a spokesman for Radio 1 said she wanted "to spend more time as Mrs Zoe Cook rather than Ms Zoe Ball" and the career break reflected "a genuine desire to devote herself to her home life with Norman".

A year later, she had a son, Woody, but after the birth, she cut short her maternity leave to film the TV show The Priory.

"I took too much time off when I was pregnant", she said at the time. "There are only so many times you can wander round M&S, only so many soft furnishings you can buy."

Despite such signs of dissatisfaction with some aspects of family life, Ms Ball seemed blissfully happy with her husband. But in 2003 it was revealed that their marriage could hit the rocks after Ms Ball admitted having an afffair with a little-known club DJ called Dan Peppe. But Ms Ball and her husband managed to patch things up and they are now expecting their second child.

While the career break seemingly continues, Ms Ball is known to have been studying on a film course in Brighton where the couple have a £2m beach-front home. Ms Ball once said she was made for a career on television and radio, although when she was younger, she wanted to be, first, a ballerina, then star in stage musicals, then be a Bond girl.

'The bottom line is that I want to own my own time and bring some kind of control to my life'

Lawrence Dallaglio, 32, Former England rugby captain

Dallaglio confirmed his retirement 10 days ago following a month-long holiday in Portugal in July with his partner, Alice Corbett, and their three children, Ella, seven, Josie Mae, five, and Enzo, two.

At the press conference on 31 August, Dallaglio, who won 73 international caps with England, said: "The bottom line is that I want to own my own time and be able to bring some kind of control to my life."

He later added: "Playing game after game, battling to recover from injuries, running to airports in between the international and domestic campaigns, trying to give it all for England and for Wasps.

"It was physically, mentally and emotionally shattering and you finally cannot keep it going, you cannot be a rugby player 24 hours a day.

"My partner Alice and I have three young children, she gets three weeks' holidays a year and usually I spend them recovering from rugby only to dash straight back to it. Now I have regained control over my life."

However, it's clearly not going to be school runs and coffee mornings for Dallaglio, as he will continue to captain the London-based side Wasps.

'The most important thing is the family unit - it should be together'

Norman Fowler, 66, Former Conservative Party chairman and Transport Secretary

Lord Fowler is the master of standing down to spend more time with the family.

He famously announced his resignation as Employment Secretary under Margaret Thatcher in 1990 to spend more time with his family - second wife, Fiona, and daughters Kate, then nine, and Isobel, then six.

However, two years later, he was brought back by John Major as party chairman, which meant his professed reason for resigning - to spend more time with his family - came to be regarded with scepticism as an excuse to duck out of an unfortunate relationship with the Iron Lady.

Nine years on, Lord Fowler resigned as the shadow Home Secretary in William Hague's Shadow Cabinet. Again, he cited family reasons.

In between, in 1994, he even managed to quit his post as party chairman - this time to spend more time with his directorships (he was chairman of a Midlands newspaper group).

Shortly before his final resignation, he said: "I have always taken the view that the most important thing is the family unit, which should be together as often as it conceivably can."

His first marriage while he was working as a journalist on The Times, ended in divorce in 1976. He wed Fiona, a House of Commons researcher, three years later.

"The idea that the husband goes to Westminster five days a week and the family stays 120 miles away can work, but I have seen it not work.

"Thankfully, there is easy communication between Westminster and Sutton Coldfield [his constituency], although I often feel my spiritual home is the mainline railway station."

'Women who have taken a career break and still want to be a chief executive, probably can be'

Penny Hughes, 44, Former president of Coca Cola Great Britain

Mrs Hughes became known as The First Lady of Fizz when she was made president of Coca-Cola's British operation at the age of 33 in July 1992. But two years later, she made headlines when she left her £250,000 job to have her first child. She was praised by some and attacked by others for letting women down.

But Mrs Hughes was far from quitting the business sector in favour of motherhood and took on non-executive roles with four companies including the Mirror Group, The Gap and Vodafone. "A lot of men thought I would be unlikely to go back to work at a time of my own choosing, but I'm convinced I've got more responsibility than I would have had if I'd stayed put."

She now has two sons and recently said that women who have taken a career break and "still want to be a chief executive probably can be". However a week after saying this she missed out on the job as chairman of Channel 4. Watch this space.

'I'm a mum and I work, but that doesn't mean I leave my children behind'

Kate Winslet, 29, Actress with two children

Ms Winslet reportedly gave just three weeks' notice before dropping out of Woody Allen's latest film - known only as WASP 04 (Woody Allen Summer Project 04). The star of The Titanic said she wanted to spend time with her family - her second husband Sam Mendes, the theatre director, her four-year-old daughter Mia from her first husband Jim Threapleton and her six-month-old son Joe.

She said: "I saw I would be working through the summer and wouldn't see Sam and the children. I hadn't thought it through properly. I wrote to Woody and received a beautiful hand-written note back saying, 'Don't worry. Forget all about it. Family must come first.'"

She and her second husband have made it a policy to spend time with the family. She once said: "I'm a mum-- that's my priority. I go to work sometimes, but that doesn't mean that I leave my children behind. My career comes second."

'Women can have it all. I am just choosing not to want it all'

Lisa Gordon, 37, Former corporate affairs director of the broadcasting and music group Chrysalis

At the end of 2002, Ms Gordon, who was the youngest woman to be appointed director of a publicly quoted company, quit her £133,000-a-year job to get to know her three children - Freddie, nine, Pippa, six, and Finn, four - better. Her decision was made after her nanny had a baby and her husband, Simon, 36, started travelling regularly to Glasgow for his job with Abbey National. The story was reported as proof that women cannot have it all - successful career and happy family life.

But she disagreed. "I didn't throw in the towel because I couldn't do it all. I've simply chosen to go down another path."Last year, she became a non-executive director at Future Network, a games-magazine publisher.

'I've always had football in perspective. My family comes before the game every time '

Gordon Strachan, 47, Former Scottish football international, turned manager, turned family man

Strachan cited "medical and personal" reasons when he decided not to renew his contract as manager of Southampton. When he announced his resignation in January, he said: "I had to be fair to my family and I had given them my word."

The straight-talking Scot said that the decision had been made two years previously between him, his wife Lesley, their sons Gavin and Craig (both professional footballers) and teenage daughter Gemma. The former Dundee, Aberdeen, Manchester United, Leeds United and Coventry player added: "I wanted to walk away because there are still things I want to do in my life. I'm not walking away from football but I'm not arrogant enough to think I can go straight back into the game."

Pundits claimed there were several factors such as dressing room standoffs with players and rankles with the chairman, Rupert Lowe, behind his decision. Strachan insisted that his resignation had nothing to do with cash or contract terms, but his reward for transforming the club from relegation strugglers to FA Cup finalists was a mere 12-month rolling deal.

He said: "I've always had football in perspective. My family comes before the game every time. But I can't really escape from it. I try to disguise it to my wife, but I'm thinking about it all the time."

Strachan is now said to have been lined up to replace Berti Vogts as Scotland boss or Graeme Souness at Blackburn Rovers.