Boris Johnson and David Davis have resigned from their posts in the UK Cabinet. The shock events follow a meeting of all the Ministers in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet, at her Prime Ministerial country house, Chequers.
Anybody who knows their politics probably knows what all that means, but if you’re anything like me, you might need a quick crash course.
Here are the three most asked questions about the goings-on in Westminster.
What is the Cabinet?
The Cabinet is the Ministerial Body of the UK Government. These 21 people, and the Prime Minister, make any decisions about policy that don’t involve the House of Commons. The Commons is where the Cabinet and the rest of the MPs that make up the Government – currently made up of the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party – debate new laws with the Opposition, which is also made up of elected MPs.
Those Opposition MPs’ parties do not currently hold Governmental power through a Parliamentary majority (the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrats, Sinn Fein, the Green Party and independents, who do not have a party). However, if the Government wishes to pass any laws, it has to pass through a vote which includes the Opposition MPs.
Cabinet Ministers are appointed and dismissed by the Prime Minister. They can, as we’ve seen, resign if they so wish.
Does this mean they’re not MPs (Members of Parliament) anymore?
Johnson has quit as Foreign Secretary and David Davis as Secretary of State For Exiting The European Union (Brexit Secretary for short). However, MPs who have resigned as Ministers can stay on as MPs. David Cameron stayed on as the Member of Parliament for Witney until two months after he resigned as Prime Minister.
MPs have a duty to their constituents to serve as their representative in the House of Commons, whereas Ministers in the Cabinet are serving the Prime Minister. They may also wish to stick around in order to have a vote on any decisions taken by the Cabinet to Parliament- decisions which Johnson and Davis may now wish to vote against.
One might wonder if an MP might prefer to stay non-ministerial, for a quiet life. An example of this is Dennis Skinner, a Labour MP who has been in Parliament for 48 years and never accepted a ministerial position. Ministers usually receive supplementary salary on top of their MP pay, and considerably more power, so resigning is not a decision to be taken lightly. However, after stepping down as MP Cameron was able to pursue a new career in publishing and public speaking, as many Prime Ministers have done before him.
What will happen next?
No one can say. Prime Minister Theresa May has to retain control of the Government in order to achieve her goal of exiting the European Union, but to do so she must keep the trust of her Party. Many people inside and outside her party will now be calling for a general election to be called as the pressure mounts on May’s cabinet. Her supporters meanwhile will say that as Brexit must be delivered on a short timescale, it is not the time for political upheaval. As with anything in politics, only time will tell.
For live updates, try the BBC’s breaking news feed.
Editor’s Note: The previous version of this article stated that David Davies had resigned, when the name of the Minister who resigned is in fact David Davis. Confusingly, David Davies is another Conservative MP with only a very slightly different name.