Crabb: from rising star to back benches in two weeks

Stephen Crabb MP
Image caption Stephen Crabb's last visit to Downing Street as a cabinet minister.

"MPs are imperfect in so many ways. We are made of the same stuff as the rest of humanity. From time to time we deserve challenge, criticism and ridicule."

It's fair to say that Stephen Crabb probably thinks he has received more than his fair share of challenge, criticism and ridicule in the weeks since he wrote those words (in response to the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox).

In a fortnight, he has gone from rising star cabinet minister and leadership contender to the backbenches. With sackings done in private, his appearance in Downing Street on Thursday lunchtime convinced many that he was either being promoted or asked to stay as work and pensions secretary.

Instead of an announcement from No 10, we got a statement from the Preseli Pembrokeshire MP in which he said: "After careful reflection I have informed the Prime Minister today that, in the best interests of my family, I cannot be part of her government at this time."

He didn't expand on the reasons but it is fair to assume they are connected to newspaper reports like this one. Boris Johnson may have generated more sensational headlines in his time but, unlike Mr Crabb, he didn't launch a leadership bid on "values" such as "humility". Even his great friend Ruth Davidson cracked a public joke at his expense during a Westminster press gallery lunch this week.

It's unclear whether the 43-year-old MP was offered an alternative job, which he declined, or asked to stay on at DWP.

There was sympathy from Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies. "I'm disappointed. Stephen's an incredibly capable man," he said. "In part because of his background but also because of his competence and his calmness, I think he made government, and he made the people, take Welsh politics seriously.

"When he went (for) the leadership he was essentially a Welsh MP and I just think he raised the profile of Wales and the Conservative party in Wales."

'Happier'

There was a happier Downing Street visit for Mr Crabb's predecessor as secretary of state for Wales, Alun Cairns, who will remain in the much-changed cabinet.

He said his priorities would remain the steel industry, the Wales Bill and trying to raise Wales's profile through the new focus on international trade as Brexit looms.

What then of Mr Crabb's prospects? Glyn Davies is optimistic. "Politics has always a way back," he said.

"The way in which politics has changed in the last month, anything is possible."