THE departure of six senior ministers in eight months has handed Theresa May an unwanted record as the Prime Minister who has sacked or “lost” more Cabinet members in a shorter time than any other premier in post-war British history. Ministers come and go, but there are a few – a handful, really – who have resigned and changed the direction of Government or provoked the downfall of a prime minister.

Although Robin Cook’s resignation as Leader of the House of Commons over the Iraq war was dramatic, and the departures of John Stonehouse and Jonathan Aitken were even more so. These five are the most far-reaching ministerial resignations of post-war British politics.


A war hero, Tory MP Profumo (below) had risen through the ranks of government to become secretary of state for war under Harold MacMillan in 1960.

Three years later, news emerged that the married Profumo had been having a relationship with a model, Christine Keeler, who also shared a bed with Soviet spy Yevgeny Ivanov. Profumo denied intimacy with Keeler in a statement in the House of Commons, and then had to admit he had lied. He resigned, though in truth MacMillan sacked him. MacMillan became seriously ill during the crisis and resigned in October 1963, four months after Profumo, after being misdiagnosed with cancer. Alec Douglas-Home took over as PM, but the scandal fatally damaged the Tories, who lost the 1964 election to Harold Wilson’s Labour Party.


The public school-educated millionaire publisher and property developer sounded like an English toff but was born in Swansea.

Very popular in the UK because he had promoted the sale of council houses when entering government in 1979, Heseltine was a “One Nation” Tory and virtual certainty to be chief contender for prime minister after Margaret Thatcher. However, he resigned over the Westland Affair in 1986, walking out of a Cabinet meeting and on to the back benches. There he began to plot the downfall of Thatcher who was able to move her Government even more right in his absence.


Having been an able and avuncular foreign secretary. Howe (above) was nobody’s idea of a rebel. Labour bruiser Denis Healey once memorably said that being criticised by Howe was like being savaged by a dead sheep.

Some sheep, some savagery, for when he resigned as deputy prime minister over Thatcher’s stance on the EU on November 1, 1990, he used his resignation statement to smelt the Iron Lady. Heseltine triggered a leadership election and Thatcher was gone just three weeks later.


Like Profumo before him, Scots-born defence secretary Fallon was forced to resign over sexual matters – in his case inappropriate comments and misbehaviour to women – on November 1 last year. May’s defence of him at first showed poor judgment on her behalf.


Rudd effectively sacked herself as home secretary in Windrush crisis by making out she knew nothing of deportation targets when she did. Fallon and Rudd were May’s defenders and their departure has started what is surely the downfall of the Prime Minister.