Lord Strathclyde's sudden departure casts shadow over relaunch

Timing of his announcement caused an unwelcome distraction to the Coalition

The political career of one of the Conservative Party’s longest serving – and longest named – politicians came to an end today when Lord Strathclyde resigned as Leader of the House of Lords.

In a surprising move Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, aka the 2nd Baron Strathclyde, said he wanted to return to his career in the private sector and “take up other threads of my life and other interests”.

His departure, after a quarter of a century on Conservative front bench, rather overshadowed the Coalition’s “relaunch” as Westminster speculated on the strange timing of the announcement.

But Downing Street insisted it merely wanted to announce the news at the earliest opportunity before the Lords returns from its Christmas break today. In a self-deprecating resignation letter to David Cameron, Lord Strathclyde wrote that his departure will “benefit government, party and House of Lords alike”.

Lord Strathclyde, one of the few remaining hereditary peers in the Lords, has been a constant presence on the Tory front bench for 25 years serving six Tory leaders and working in the administrations of three prime ministers.

He was first appointed to government by Margaret Thatcher in 1988 as a trade and industry spokesman and has served as a whip and a minister in the departments for employment, environment, Scotland and trade and industry.

He was one of the hereditary peers elected to remain in the reformed upper chamber in 1999 and served as opposition leader in the Lords from 1998 when his predecessor Lord Cranborne was sacked by William Hague for “running in like an ill-trained spaniel” and secretly negotiating with Tony Blair over Lords reform.

Regarded as one of Westminster’s safest pairs of hands, the 52-year-old has helped keep the coalition Government’s difficulties in the Upper House to a minimum, but his biggest challenge was averted when plans for Lords reform were dropped last year.

One of relatively few Tory peers to support the principle of democratic election to Parliament’s second chamber, Lord Strathclyde would have needed all his powers of persuasion to guide the legislation through an upper house whose members were becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition.

But he is said to have become frustrated by the dynamic of Coalition politics in the Lords – where significant numbers of Liberal Democrat peers have routinely defied the Government and supported opposition amendments.

Shortly before Christmas he reportedly remarked to one colleague that the “Coalition had already broken down” in the House of Lords.

David Cameron said Lord Strathclyde told him shortly after Christmas that he wanted to leave the Government. “He has served for 25 years without a break on the front bench. He has done a great job for the House of Lords, for the Conservative Party and for the Coalition Government,” he said.

“I am obviously sad to see him go because he is a brilliant public servant, knows the House of Lords inside out and has been a really valued colleague to me.”

In his formal response to Lord Strathclyde’s resignation letter, Mr Cameron paid tribute to a “staunch friend and wise counsel”.

He added: “You will be much missed. I do hope that at some point in the future years you will have a further contribution to offer.”

Dear PM... Lord Strathclyde's resignation letter

Dear Prime Minister,

There is rarely a good time to discuss succession but an opportunity exists to make a further change to those you are already making in the Lords, namely, to accept my resignation and replace me as Leader of the House of Lords. I believe that these changes will benefit Government, party and House of Lords alike…

The Lords is an extraordinary and vigorous place, but recently I’ve been considering a change of direction. I started my working life in the private sector and at some stage always hoped to return, I would now like to do so. While I have the highest respect for the privilege and duty of public service, I do not see a political career as the cap of everything and would like, while there is still time, to take up other threads of my life.

I always promised myself that when I did leave I would do so when I could make a smooth handover. Whatever my feelings on the matter, reform of the Lords is effectively over and now is a good time to manage that handover.

Thomas Strathclyde

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam