Outgoing minister Andrew Smith was seen as an unglamorous but safe pair of hands for one of the Cabinet's lowest profile roles.
Smith was seen as a loyalist of Gordon Brown
He is perhaps best remembered for his opposition to privatising air traffic control when he declared at Labour's 1996 conference: "Our air is not for sale".
It was a rallying cry which was to haunt him
when Labour switched policies and proposed a public-private partnership for National Air Traffic Services.
ANDREW SMITH'S CAREER
1987: Enters Parliament
1988-92: Labour education spokesman
1992-94: Shadow Treasury spokesman
1994-96: Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury
1996-97: Shadow transport secretary
1997-99: Employment minister
1999-2002: Chief secretary to the Treasury
2002-2004: Work and pensions secretary
It was a blip in what has otherwise been a competent if unsparkling career - as many commentators also portray the man.
As a New Labour high-flyer who rose swiftly after the 1997 election victory, 51-year-old Mr Smith came into his own as chief secretary to the Treasury.
Promoted to the post in October 1999, he told interviewers a month later of his determination to keep "an iron grip" on spending.
That was when Labour's two-year commitment to stick to Tory spending plans was still in place - and Mr Smith proved himself the perfect guardian of what was a key election pledge.
As Work and Pensions Secretary, Mr Smith tried to restore battered confidence in company pensions with his flagship Pensions Bill, which is still going through Parliament.
It creates a new pensions regulator to handle mis-selling cases and establishes a new pensions protection fund to help members of occupation scheme if their employer goes bust, although critics say it is not radical enough.
Mr Smith also moved to encourage saving by introducing the pensions credit last year, although opposition parties said this extended means testing.
And his department was to bear the brunt of planned job civil service job cuts, with 40,000 posts due for the axe.
Born in Reading and grammar school educated, Mr Smith went to Oxford University, joined the Labour party aged 22 and was elected to the city council in 1976 three years later.
In 1982 he chaired Oxford's "anti-Falklands-war committee", a stance reflected in his opposition to the Gulf War a decade later.
Entering Parliament in 1987, he defeated Oxford East's sitting Conservative MP Steve Norris with a slim 1,288 majority.
Promotion was rapid and after stints as education and Treasury spokesman, he was appointed shadow chief secretary in 1994 under shadow chancellor Gordon Brown.
The same year Mr Smith did his future career prospects no harm when he supported Tony Blair for the party leadership and campaigned for the party to be modernised.
'Mr New Deal'
In 1996, despite being earmarked as a Brown loyalist, he began a stint outside the Treasury brief - first as transport spokesman.
Then in government as employment and disability rights minister he was given the task of introducing Labour's flagship New Deal job scheme.
The success he quietly made of the task was rewarded with promotion to the Cabinet.
Along the way he picked up experience delivering programmes within budget and working across departments.
Outside work it seems Mr Smith is capable of confounding his bookish image - he once confessed in an interview to knowing who the Spice Girls were.
He is married to Valerie, has one son and lists his likes as sport, walking and music - "rock and opera" - hobbies which his resignation gives him more time to pursue.