Willott and Hunter stand down as Assistant Government Whips, Burt and Brake take over

Jenny Willott has stepped down as Assistant Government Whip to free herself up to concentrate on her constituency and to be able to speak in the House of Commons. Here are the letters exchanged between Jenny and Nick Clegg in full:

Letter from Jenny Willott to the Deputy Prime Minister

Dear Nick,

As we have previously discussed, I would like to tender my resignation as a Government Whip.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Government, both in the Whips Office and as a Minister in the Departments for Business, Innovation & Skills and Culture, Media and Sport. In the Department for Business, I am particularly proud of having steered the Consumer Rights Bill through the House of Commons, helping businesses to make their supply chains more transparent and seeing the last all-male board in the FTSE 100 appoint a woman director. In the Whips Office, I have enjoyed being part of a strong and effective team, working closely with colleagues across the party.

I also think that you have done, and are doing, an excellent job as party leader and Deputy Prime Minister. The fact that the Lib Dems have fulfilled so many of our commitments at the last election, is in large part down to you and your team.

I believe the Liberal Democrats in the Government have achieved a huge amount in the last four and a half years, and I have really enjoyed playing a part in doing this.

I have thoroughly enjoyed serving under Vince Cable, Don Foster and Alistair Carmichael, and I very much look forward to working with them and the rest of the Parliamentary party in the future.



Letter from the Deputy Prime Minister to Jenny Willott

Dear Jenny,

Thank you for the excellent job that you have done over the past two and a half years as an Assistant Government Whip, ensuring that the coalition has been successful in getting important liberal reforms through parliament.

I am also very grateful to you for your work as Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs Minister and Minister for Women and Equalities, providing maternity cover to Jo Swinson. You did a fantastic job, which has been widely praised.

I fully understand your desire to stand down from the whips role in the final months of this parliament so you can speak in parliament and focus on your constituency but I very much hope that we will have the opportunity of working alongside each other in government after the next election.

Best wishes,


Mark Hunter, MP for Cheadle has also decided to step down.

They will be replaced by Lorely Burt and Tom Brake respectively.

Baroness Sue Garden has also been appointed an Assistant Whip in the Lords.

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  • So who is replacing Jenny Willot?

    And when Clegg says in his letter — “….but I very much hope that we will have the opportunity of working alongside each other in government after the next election” was this some sort of bad joke?

    Or is he also looking forward to serving alongside the Liberal Democrat MP for Rochester after the by-election?

  • Nick’s just maintaining the humorous tone that Jenny initiated by saying “an excellent job as party leader and Deputy Prime Minister.”

  • Nick appears to recognise that Lib Dem MPs seeking reelection are going to have a fight in their hands between now and next May and haven’t time or enthusiasm to stay in Government.

  • ACGN 4th Nov ’14 – 2:14pm
    “….Nick appears to recognise that Lib Dem MPs seeking reelection are going to have a fight ”

    ACGN — I doubt that. It woud point to a political insight that Clegg has not demonstrated in the last seven years. When he is sitting in the bunker in denial of the facts or zooming around in his ministerial jag there just is not the time to consider the political realities of what might happen to half of his MPs. He is much too busy being the DPM. He is after all the John Prescott of 2014 and that is a very important thing to be.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th Nov '14 - 3:30pm

    Post now updated to include Mark Hunter too. They are being replaced by Lorely Burt and Tom Brake.

  • Listening to Newsnight reporting on the Home Office resignation last night, they reported that the Lib Dems will not be leaving the coalition, they will stay to the bitter end. I hope this is not another Clegg mis-judgement. See YouGov had us at 8% last night, taken over the weekend.
    Others were at 26%, including UKIP, Nationalists and Greens. 26% its not bad is it. AND we have Rochester coming.
    Better news for Labour in Scotland, only 4 – 5% behind the SNP. 37 – 32. Bit different to those polls last week. We are at 6%, that should suit us great!!!!!!

  • Stage three, divergence. It is so cynical but many people now know about it so will probably backfire.

  • Peter Watson 4th Nov '14 - 4:29pm

    I hate to be pedantic, but shouldn’t Jenny Willott have written Whips’ Office (with an apostrophe)?
    And shouldn’t Clegg have written whips’ role or whip’s role, again with an apostrophe?
    As an engineer educated by the state in the comprehensive system (and from whom poor grammar and bad spelling is therefore expected), I can’t help but be a little disappointed in our privately educated politicians with a background in the humanities 😉

  • hi John – hence my use of ‘appears’.

  • Its very clear that MP’s are beginning to struggle with collective cabinet responsibility and being on the Government payroll in positions that restrict them on what they can and can not say publicly, remaining in post is effecting their ability to campaign in their own constituencies.
    Instead of this farcical situation that the Liberal Democrats find themselves in, would it not be far better for the party as a whole to pull out of coalition and allow each MP to start setting out their positions in time for the 2015 election.

    This situation seems ludicrous.

  • Hi Matt,
    Not only is it ludicrous. It verges on the suicidal.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Nov '14 - 6:39pm

    Anchoring the government in the centre ground is now failing and Lib Dems are sitting in a right wing government. Time to get out.

    matt, ACGN, Norman Baker and others have already smelt the coffee. Time for the rest to smell it too.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Nov '14 - 7:04pm

    By the way, plenty of ministers make their departments “look Lib Dem”, but we have to ask ourselves, what could be done with Labour? Plenty of Labour shadow ministers look Lib Dem too.

    Ed Davey is a good recent example of getting his way in government, but Caroline Flint is pro tackling climate change and energy companies too, and she has also warned against more populist price freezes and emphasises the importance of Labour tackling the deficit. In fact, the more I read about Caroline Flint the more I like her. She seems very pragmatic.

    I’m late onto this analysis, but we can’t deny the Conservatives seem to be lurching further to the right and Labour has some very good shadow ministers. No to coalition with Labour, but yes to working with both parties.

  • Peter Chegwyn 4th Nov '14 - 7:45pm

    When we entered coalition in 2010 there was much debate about what the exit strategy would be in 2014.

    Now we’re in 2014 it’s clear there is no exit strategy. We’re in the coalition to the end even though it’s unlikely that the Conservatives will allow any vote-winning Liberal policies onto the statute book between now and the election.

    Small wonder that those MPs who wish to hold their seats next May are getting out of Government so they can concentrate on their constituencies.

    Surprising that Lorely Burt isn’t joining them and is instead taking on more work at Westminster.

    Presumably she’s confident of defending her Solihull seat. Current majority 175.

  • Paul In Wokingham 4th Nov '14 - 8:01pm

    If the party get 10% nationally next May and returns 25 to 30 MPs, then how many peers would Clegg be permitted to create? The Lib Dems already have about 100 peers and it would seem most inappropriate to allow very many more to be named after a very poor showing in the GE.

  • Wasn’t Tom Brake the guy that campaigned strongly to ban shops selling cannabis seeds? He’s a Lib Dem? Are the Lib Dems in faviour of cannabis decriminalisation or not? I’m confused.


  • paul barker 4th Nov '14 - 8:20pm

    The Party wont get 10% & 25 MPs though. We will get between 15 & 20 % & 40 t0 50 MPs. In any case if we were following the agreed Rules we could make another 150 Peers now. I always thought we made a mistake not insisting on our fair share of Peers in the first 18 Months of the Coalition.

  • David Evans 4th Nov '14 - 8:48pm

    Paul, Beware. If you continue to have such thoughts as our failure to take peers early on, your tag as Nick’s favourite poster will disappear. I’m sure Nick will use any spares he still has wisely to keep any wavering MPs in line over the next few months. 🙂

  • paul barker 4th Nov ’14 – 8:20pm
    “….We will get between 15 & 20 %. & 40 to 50 MPs. ”

    Does anyone reading this agree with paul barker that there will be more than 40 LD MPs on 8th May?

    I think Pual in Wokingham’s estimate of less than 30 is more realistic.
    But Paul was a bit over optimistic with his estimate of 3 MEPs earlier this year.

  • @Mr Wallace

    The position, and let others correct me if I’m wrong, is that the sentences on those found in the possession of drugs should be lessened, with more attention paid to tackling trafficers and smugglers, rather than legalisation itself.

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Nov '14 - 9:37pm

    @JohnTilley 4th Nov ’14 – 8:48pm
    “Does anyone reading this agree with paul barker that there will be more than 40 LD MPs on 8th May?”

    Hi John, you can’t be a Liberal or Lib Dem without also being an optimist. Certainly no one can take that characteristic away from Paul 🙂

  • David Evans 4th Nov '14 - 9:38pm

    Paul, on what basis of accuracy of prediction in the past can you justify us believing you when you say “We will get between 15 & 20 %. & 40 to 50 MPs.” I’m sorry but people like you are dangerous when you encourage others to believe it will all be so easy. We are in a mess and only one thing can turn it around, and pretending things will work out fine just serves to delude people into a cosy pretence that if we feel good about things, things will be good for us. It doesn’t work that way, and if you have ever tried to get elected yourself, you know its tough.

  • Peter Watson 4th Nov '14 - 9:47pm

    @JohnTilley “Does anyone reading this agree with paul barker that there will be more than 40 LD MPs on 8th May?”
    I think it’s too hard to predict with any confidence, so who knows?
    I believe that polling reflects a genuine lack of support for Lib Dems. Come May 2015 with people voting tactically rather than expressing a preference, many of those who don’t like Lib Dems might hold their noses and vote for the lesser of two (or three or four …) evils. It is certainly ironic that Lib Dems could benefit from the party’s failure to secure electoral and constitutional reform, especially when there is talk of the power of Clegg’s patronage with peerages.
    Equally, the rise of UKIP, Greens, SNP and Bus Pass Elvis, combined with the quirks of first-past-the-post and polling that suggests a Lib Dem vote is wasted means that almost anything is possible in terms of the number of MPs, from a wipe-out to a strong survival rate.
    All that is certain is that I’ll have a late night/early morning watching a Dimbleby on TV on Thursday 7 May.

  • David Allen 5th Nov '14 - 12:12am

    John Tilley,

    “Clegg…is the John Prescott of 2014”

    Unfair! (to Prescott, that is..)

  • Paul In Wokingham 5th Nov '14 - 8:13am

    @Paul Barker – my comment is written as a hypothesis (starts with “if the party gets”) that is consistent with polls and election results for the last 4 years. Your comment is an assertion (starts with “we will get”) for which you offer no supporting evidence whatever. You made similar claims during the Euros, repeatedly asserting that the polls showing us at 6% would prove to be wrong. They were not. As John TIlley notes, I was wrong too – because I had spent two years saying that (based on the polling evidence) we would be reduced to 3 MEPs, but in my defence that was before Mr. Clegg’s ham-fisted efforts in the Farage debates.

    Your constant assertion that the party’s fortunes will improve – by unspecified Deus ex Machina – encourages (as David Evans notes) a false hope that somehow everything will just turn out OK. The only hope is hard work on the ground – see the subject of the article.

  • Malcolm Todd 5th Nov '14 - 2:56pm

    “The Party wont get 10% & 25 MPs though. ”

    Where does it say anything about that in the article?

    Wait — Were you responding to Paul in Wokingham’s comment at 8.01 p.m.? Good heavens, have you abandoned your alleged policy of never responding to other posters challenging you in the comments on the grounds that all comments should relate to the original article?

    (Of course, you can avoid answering this on the grounds that it’s not what the original article was — oh, what’s the use…)

  • Malcolm Todd 5th Nov '14 - 2:57pm

    Aargh. Ironically, the last comment was directed at

    paul barker

    but I forgot to say so!

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