Claire Perry MP resigns as rail minister after Tory calls on her "to get a grip" over Southern Rail chaos

Written by Tony Millett on .

Devizes Constituency MP Claire Perry has resigned from her position as rail minister - she said recently that she was 'often ashamed to be rail minister.'   

The Department for Transport has given no reason for her resignation and it is not clear whether it has any connection at all to the formation of Prime Minister Theresa May's new government.

Mrs Perry has been in the firing line over the chaotic performance of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) the contractor running Southern Rail with its key commuter services.  Hundreds of trains have been cancelled and many more are delayed every day.

Even after GTR brought in an emergency timetable which cut 341 trains a day, it struggled to provide a proper service. There are reports of people losing their jobs because they have been  unable to get to work on time.

While there were comings and goings to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday (July 13) as the government's most senior guard was changed, in Westminster Hall MP's were debating the GTR service.  

In his opening speech, Tim Loughton (Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham) explained that he had not been allowed to title the debate "The Woeful Performance of the GTR Service."  He called GTR's performance a "national disgrace for Britain's largest rail passenger carrier."

The company has had a spate of strike actions taken by the unions over the role of its conductors.

Mr Loughton went on to criticise Mrs Perry for contributing to 'sloganising headlines' by her remarks over that trade union action and said: "She has really got to get a grip."

In her reply Mrs Perry said she could not strip the company of its franchise contract and had thought about resigning: "So what are we going to do? If I thought it would help by me falling on my sword, I would. I've thought about it repeatedly.  I don't like failure, I don't fail at stuff in my life, this feels like a failure."

Claire Perry MP joined the Conservative Party in 2006 and after a career in banking went to work in George Osborne's office when he was Shadow Chancellor.  She was elected for the Devizes constituency in 2010 and the following year was made Parliamentary Private Secretary to Philip Hammond who was then the coalition government's Defence Secretary.

Two years ago today (July 15, 2014) she was made Under Secretary of State for Transport and she became rail minister, keeping her job when the Conservative government won power in May 2015.

Many of the very frustrated rail travellers live in the Brighton area and when its newspaper, The Argus, was unable to speak to her, they sent a reporter to London with a picture of Mrs Perry.  He eventually found her and got an appointment to interview her.  

Finally he was given a time slot by Mrs Perry's assistant.  His report continued:  " 'Great, 12pm', she offered...But almost in solidarity with her shambles of a rail service she was, of course, delayed.  It was 1pm before I finally sat down with her. Mind you, one hour isn’t bad going for Govia."

A 38 Degrees petition calling on Mrs Perry to resign was started under the headline: "Transport Minister Claire Perry should resign - vote of no confidence." At the time of writing it had attracted 38 signatures.