The site declared yesterday that Michael Fallon having put a hand on the knee of Juliet Hartley-Brewer 15 years ago is “not the stuff of which resignations are made”. But we added a cautionary note: “perhaps this is an exploratory probe”. So it seems to have been. The Defence Secretary’s words on his resignation this evening, as set out above, suggests that there may be more from the same period, or more recently. Fleet Street may thus have been on to it – well before the Hartley-Brewer story was perhaps fired as a shot across Fallon’s bows. Did he jump before he might be pushed?
It is a sour end to a tale of comeback (he lost his original seat in Darlington in 1992) and perseverance (he is not a natural Cameroon, but made his way to the top table, under the former Prime Minister, by brainpower and unflappability). The former Defence Secretary always performed very competitively in this site’s Cabinet League Table, and was liked and rated in his department. His contribution to the Party and the Government should be remembered tonight: “Nothing extenuate,/Nor set down aught in malice”.
His departure leaves Theresa May with a horrible dilemma. She cannot now avoid a mini-reshuffle, even if only the vacant place is filled. But if other Cabinet Ministers quit in due course, she will then face a second mini-shuffle, or perhaps even more, which would suggest a loss of control. Fallon’s departure may also have set in place a low bar for resignation, if any misconduct in the past by him fell short of bullying, abuse or harassment. The rolling story of which his departure is a part doesn’t have the onward force of the expenses scandal. None the less, it has a lurching progress of its own, and we can expect more to come.