Lord Jim O'Neill, who resigned today [Image: PA].

Lord Jim O’Neill, who resigned today [Image: PA].

Despite indiscretions from all three Brexit ministers – David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson – it seems the first ministerial resignation of Theresa May’s government has happened because she didn’t do what he wanted.

Lord Jim O’Neill, it seems, wanted firm commitments of support for his pet projects – the so-called Northern Powerhouse and stronger ties with emerging economies like China.

Mrs May did make a commitment about the Northern Powerhouse, only days ago – and Lord O’Neill’s resignation casts serious doubt over whether she meant it.

And, while she has decided to go ahead with the Hinkley ‘C’ power station project – part-funded by China – in the light of this resignation, one has to question her commitment to that project as well.

Worst of all, for the woman who is proving to be the weakest in a chain of weak Conservative prime ministers, is the fact that Lord O’Neill’s resignation shows she cannot command loyalty from her team.

Mrs May must give her ministers what they want or they will leave. That isn’t leadership.

In fact, for a lesson on leadership, she should look towards Jeremy Corbyn.

When his frontbenchers quit en masse, quoting false claims about the EU referendum and claiming Mr Corbyn wasn’t offering what the party wanted, he stood his ground.

Tomorrow he will win the leadership of the Labour Party for a second time – possibly with a greater mandate than last year – and his opponents will have to choose between making a public show of loyalty or retirement (either actual or in essence).

Mr Corbyn didn’t give way because he believes his policies are vital for the future of the UK and everybody living here. That’s more important than a few months of personal discomfort, and it demonstrated his integrity to the public.

Mrs May doesn’t believe in anything other than her own gain, the enrichment of the already-rich and the punishment of the poor – in that order. The other Conservatives have the same priorities and will fight each other when those priorities collide.

That’s what this resignation has shown the public.

Ugly, isn’t it?

Theresa May suffered her first ministerial resignation today, when treasury minister Jim O’Neill quit – citing concerns over the Northern Powerhouse and looser ties with China.

The former Goldman Sachs economist was handed the job – and a peerage – by George Osborne, despite not being a Conservative and, apparently, never having voted for the party.

In the summer, he had made known he would walk out in September unless Mrs May had given cast-iron commitments to his pet projects.

In today’s letter, he wrote: “I primarily joined however for the specific purpose of helping deliver the Northern Powerhouse, and to help boost our economic ties with key growing economies around the world, especially China and India and other rapidly emerging economies.

“The case for both to be at the heart of British economic policy is even stronger following the referendum, and I am pleased that, despite speculation to the contrary, both appear to be commanding your personal attention.”

There were also suggestions that Lord O’Neill – who will also resign the Tory whip and sit as Crossbencher in the House of Lords – opposes Mrs May’s plans for new grammar schools.

Source: Treasury minister quits over Northern Powerhouse and China ties | The Independent


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