Short resigns claiming Blair broke pledges

After weeks of speculation over her future, Clare Short has finally resigned her Cabinet post as International Development Secretary.

Earlier this morning she telephoned Downing Street to inform the government of her decision, before issuing a statement attacking the prime minister for breaking pledges he made to her over the role of the UN in post-war Iraq. Ms Short said that the UK's present policy was "wrong in international law".

Baroness Amos, who was parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Foreign Office, has been named as her replacement.

Question marks had been raised in the media over Ms Short's loyalty to the government in recent weeks. Not one to toe the line, Clare Short's condemnation of the prime minister as "reckless" over his stance on the war in Iraq last March was her furthest departure from Cabinet's collective responsibility.

In that interview, less than two weeks before hostilities began, Ms Short said: "The whole atmosphere is deeply reckless. Reckless for the undermining of the UN in this disorderly world which is wider than Iraq. Reckless with our government, reckless with his [Tony Blair's] own future position and place in history."

Ms Short was widely expected to resign her post immediately following that statement. But in the light of Robin Cook's departure, and the resignations of two other government officials, Ms Short was persuaded to stay on with the promise of a strengthened role for the UN in Iraq's reconstruction and government. It was over these pledges that Ms Short quit her post today.

Nonetheless, the nature of her very personal attack on Tony Blair meant that she would be edged out by Number 10 in the coming reshuffle – Ms Short could only pre-empt that decision.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said the resignation exposed the "deep divisions" within the government.

"Clare Short's resignation demonstrates what we have been seeing over the past few weeks - a government split from top to bottom. Her resignation is a symptom of the deep, deep divisions in the government. These splits are hurting the government's ability to govern properly in the UK," he said.

Shadow International Development Secretary for the Lib Dems, Jenny Tonge, however, spoke of her sadness at the news.

"Clare Short has been an extremely good International Development Secretary and has been brave enough to challenge her own party on a number of issues, including Iraq," she said. "Whoever replaces her will have a tough act to follow."

It had also been unclear whether Ms Short was in support of foundation hospitals – one of Tony Blair's flagship policies in his drive for public service reform – after she failed to turn up for the vote last week. She cited a simple time-keeping error as reason for her absence.

Last week, the Prime Minister's Official spokesman said that Mr Blair had accepted the explanation.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

13 June 2013
Dale Cregan Trial Concludes After 12 Weeks
Dale Cregan, who previously pleaded guilty to four murders, two of which where of two female police officers, has been cleared of a final charge of attempted murder, the BBC have reported.
07 December 2009
Paedophiles On Most Wanted Website
Police have turned to the web and a 'Most Wanted' website to track down two criminals who have went 'AWOL'. The Police in Merseyside and Cornwall have placed two paedophiles who they have called 'dangerous' on the national 'Most Wanted' website.
02 February 2010
Cabinet 'Misled' On Iraq, Says Short
A former 'rebel' cabinet minister has said her colleagues were "misled" into believing the Iraq invasion was legal. Appearing before an inquiry into the war today, Clare Short claimed Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's legal assessment had been "leaned on".
15 October 2003
Government 'on course' to meet short-term poverty goals
The government is on course to meet its short-term target for reducing child poverty, according to projections for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The foundation has said that around one million children will have been taken out of poverty by the spring of 2004, compared with 1997.
10 November 2003
Sophie Wessex doing well after premature birth
The Countess of Wessex and her new baby girl are reportedly doing well after she went into labour five weeks early on Saturday night. Prince Edward cut short a state visit to Mauritius in order to be with his wife after she was rushed to hospital at the weekend complaining of severe stomach pains.