Resigning on a matter of conscience, how marvellously old-fashioned. Sayeeda Warsi’s enemies in the Conservative Party will cast her exit as vain and motivated by enmity.
Her decision to quit, I think, was a matter of principle – but the manner in which she subsequently left was driven by vengeance.
First, then, the principle. Baroness Warsi is genuinely dismayed by British Government policy on Israel and Gaza, believing it to be damaging to the national interest and likely to inspire domestic extremism. She represents a significant minority in the Conservative Party uncomfortable with David Cameron’s support of Benjamin Netanyahu, and with his reluctance to call Israel’s bombardment disproportionate. (As his political rivals have.) It is worth noting Baroness Warsi’s ambition: she will not have relinquished ministerial office cheaply.
Now for the vengeance. Baroness Warsi chose a day when the PM was away on holiday and announced her departure to the public before he had the chance to speak to her. Her words were calculated to damage him and the new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, who is already dismaying some of his senior civil servants with his unworldliness.
What does all of this really mean for Mr Cameron, then? He certainly doesn’t suffer from a surfeit of outspoken, working-class, northern, Muslim mums educated at comprehensives. And her departure will hit the Tories’ ability to attract middle-class Muslims in key marginal seats in the Midlands and London.
The damage to Mr Cameron himself is certainly reparable, if he appears a little more willing to challenge Israel. But this mutiny highlights clear, unresolved divisions within the Conservatives about Middle East policy and the Prime Minister’s foreign affairs judgement.