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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference