It is tempting – and I shall yield to the temptation – to quote Shakespeare on the resignation of Estelle Morris: “Nothing in her life Became her like the leaving it.” We are speaking of a political life and, of course, the quotation from Macbeth refers to “him” rather than “her”; nonetheless, it speaks directly to Ms Morris's transparent honesty about what she believed to be her shortcomings as a senior minister. I cannot recall a comparable resignation, unless it would be Lord Carrington's over the Falklands.

Estelle Morris's decision must be respected. Yet, she could probably have stayed on and let the storms blow over her. Most of the difficulties in which she found herself were not of her making. The A–level examination fiasco had its roots going back to the last Conservative government, as the Prime Minister made clear in the House of Commons a week ago, and to her predecessor. The log–jam over the clearance of applicants for teachers' jobs was primarily a Home Office failure.

However, her apparent evasiveness over the promise she had made to resign if primary school literacy and numeracy targets were not met may have been the catalyst for her decision to go. The regret that this has caused and the respect that she has earned by it make it very likely that she will return to office before very long – a point made by Tony Blair in his letter accepting her decision to resign.

Ray Fleming

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