THAT will teach me not to listen to the Today programme in the morning.
I arrived in the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and joined Ben Brogan of the Daily Mail at his table. His first words were: “This is bad news about Ruth.”
Immediately I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. “What do you mean?” I asked, not sure if I wanted to hear the answer. I was right – I didn’t.
I returned, unfed, to my room to make some calls. By the end of them I really wasn’t any the wiser. But the shocking, utterly unexpected truth was plain: Ruth Kelly will stand down as Secretary of State for Transport at the next reshuffle – probably within a fortnight. If nothing else, her announcement will ensure that rumours of an impending reshuffle will now be proved correct.
Ruth was a great boss. She was funny and clever and always encouraging to her ministerial team. When I got into a spot of bother over this blog back in June, her first response was to ask if I was coping okay (she has since confessed to being an avid reader of this blog, so I can add good taste to her list of attributes).
She was also incredibly highly thought of by the transport industry; she gained its respect by mastering her brief and getting to know the issues facing the industry at a dazzling pace. As the country’s first female transport secretary since Barbara Castle, she brought something of that old warhorse’s political judgment and passion to her role.
Even before she became my boss at the department, I liked her. When I first started blogging, with “And another thing 1.0”, I wrote a piece defending her right to choose a private school for one of her children. That decision made her vulnerable to criticism, of course, but I would rather trust the judgment of someone who puts their commitment to their family ahead of political dogma than someone who doesn’t.
Every parent of young children will understand and respect the decision Ruth has made. There will, undoubtedly, be much frenzied speculation about her true motives. On this occasion the media would do well to avoid reading between the lines and to accept that on this occasion, a successful politician has taken a principled and courageous decision to put her family, and her children, first.
I really will miss her as a boss.
And now I’m heading home to Glasgow. Thank you and good day.