Dehenna Davison has resigned as the Minister of State for Levelling-Up. Elected for Bishop Auckland in 2019, thirty-year-old Davison has been something of a ‘poster girl’ – if such a term is not too crude – for her intake, and for other MPs from the so-called ‘Red Wall’. She has already announced that she will not contest her seat at the next election. Jacob Young is her replacement in the ministerial role.
Her resignation letter outlines how it had become “impossible” for Davison to continue in her office as she was suffering from chronic migraines. While she had “tried to mitigate” and was “grateful to colleagues for their patience”, she was unable to give the job “the energy it needs”, and thus wants to see out her time in the Commons on the backbenches, focused on issues of personal importance.
Davison’s resignation – and her exert from Parliament – is nothing other than a sad loss. Not only because she displayed in both her ministerial role and her social media an enthusiasm many veteran backbenchers would struggle to match, but because if any young MP chooses to give up the role – and especially for reasons beyond their control – it is a damning indictment of life as an MP.
As we have often touched upon this site, being elected to the Commons is a dire lifestyle choice that requires high amounts of personal stress for increasingly little reward. So those being selected as Tory candidates are consistently lifelong politicos, whether councillors or ex-SPADs. Davison was the same. If she wants to quit after only one term in office – majority be damned – what does that tell us?
But whilst resignation might given Davison more time to treat her condition, listen to some Taylor, and raise awareness of the one-punch-death that killed her father, it also provides a lesson for the Prime Minister. By replacing her with Young, he has swiftly replaced a Liz Truss (whatever happened to her?) supporter with one of his own. This is something we might see more of – at the long-delayed reshuffle.
Clearly, Davison’s condition must have been known to her fellow ministers and Number 10 for a while. That she aims to stand down at the next election suggests her resignation is not sudden. The vacancy her resignation (briefly) created will have been known to Rishi Sunak for a while and factored into his plans for refreshing his ministerial team.
There has been an element of the Dane in reshuffle speculation so far. Since Ben Wallace announced he would be standing down and the papers began to discuss who might be up the greasy pole and down it, a big reshuffle has always seemed just on the edge of occurring. Instead, we received a small one with Wallace’s standing down, and the suggestion of something great after Conference.
As Davison’s resignation shows, the longer Sunak waits, the more ministers might start to take matters into their own hands. The Prime Minister’s sales pitch is that he offers a quiet life after years of chaos. So avoiding having newly ex-ministers sounding off in Manchester makes sense. But it also raises the prospect of Davison not being the last to dance to Number 10’s timetabled tune.
This raises the question: will Davison be the last to go before Sunak says they can?