View Full Version : Tony Blair Shakes Up Cabinet After Losses

05-05-2006, 11:08 AM
Tony Blair Shakes Up Cabinet After Losses

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060505/ap_on_re_eu/britain_elections;_ylt=AjseJDcstBiUcthnhDVlXjJI2oc A;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA--

By BETH GARDINER, Associated Press Writer
24 minutes ago

LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair fired his law and order chief and his foreign secretary Friday in a wide-ranging Cabinet shuffle a day after his party took a pounding in local elections.

The Labour Party pulled 26 percent of the vote to the Conservatives 40 percent, a result that renewed calls from some quarters for the prime minister to step down. The local elections also resulted in unprecedented gains for the far right.

Blair removed Jack Straw as foreign secretary, replacing him with Margaret Beckett, who had headed the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She becomes the first woman to hold the job.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke, embroiled in a politically damaging furor over the failure to deport foreign criminals, said Blair had removed him from office. Defense Secretary John Reid was moved to the Home Office, and Des Browne was promoted from chief secretary at the Treasury to secretary of defense.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who admitted an affair with a secretary, will keep his title but was stripped of the responsibilities of his department, which include housing and planning.

"I felt that it was very difficult, given the level of genuine public concern, for Charles to continue" as home secretary, said Blair, who days earlier had defended Clarke as the right man to deal with the prisoner issue.

Clarke said he had turned down offers of other government posts. "I do not think it would be appropriate to remain in this government in these circumstances," Clarke said in a statement.

Straw's demotion was a surprise.

But there had long been rumors of tension between Straw and Blair — some reports said the outgoing foreign secretary had private expressed doubts about the Iraq war, and he publicly took a different tack on Iran than Blair did. Straw frequently described military action against Tehran as "inconceivable" and the reported U.S. contingency plans for a tactical nuclear strike as "completely nuts."

The shake-up appeared aimed at demonstrating Blair still holds a firm grip on his beleaguered government after weeks of negative headlines and scandal.

The government's acknowledgment last week that officials had failed to screen 1,023 foreign criminals for deportation before freeing them from prison in the past seven years was particularly damaging to Blair.

"It'll take far more than a reshuffle," Conservative Party leader David Cameron said. "What we need in this country is a replacement of the government."

"I think what we have seen over the last few hours is that while the Labour Party is collapsing, the Conservative Party is building," Cameron said as he toured London to celebrate his party's gains in the local elections.

Glenda Jackson, a former Labour government minister who has been a persistent Blair critic, joined the calls for him to go. "The problem for the party and its government is its leader," she said.

Thursday's vote was widely seen as a referendum on Blair's government, and Cameron emerged as the main winner.

"I'm a happy man this morning," said Cameron, who took over the party in December.

Labour took 1,065 seats in incomplete counting, down 251 seats compared with the results of the last election. The Conservatives won 1,567 seats, a gain of 249. Labour lost control of 16 local councils — including some boroughs in London — and the Tories gained eight.

The far-right British National Party won 13 seats.

Labour also did badly in the 2004 local vote but that didn't stop Blair from leading the party to its third straight national election victory a year later — albeit with a reduced majority in the House of Commons.

Treasury chief Gordon Brown, the man expected to succeed Blair, said voters were concerned about issues of crime, terrorism and their financial and job security. "We've got to show in the next few days, not just in the next few weeks, that we are sorting these problems out," he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Voters Thursday chose representatives to fill 4,360 seats in 176 local authorities across England, a little less than half of all English councils. London was the biggest battleground, with elections in all 32 boroughs.

Most Labour members of Parliament "are saying now that we've got to get the party under new management. It ought to happen fairly soon," said Frank Dobson, who was health secretary in Blair's first Cabinet.

05-05-2006, 11:39 AM
The far-right British National Party won 13 seats.

They won 31 (up 26 on their previous ones). In one borough (Barking & Dagenham), they won returned 11 of their 13 candidates, with one further ward still to declare, so it could be 12! Labour still have an overall majority on that council, losing five seats. Others who lost out to the BNP were Tories (-2, only 1 left on the council), Lib Dems (-3, none on council) and the local Ratepayers Group (-2, none on council). So the council will look something like this - Lab: 38, BNP: 11, Con: 1.


On the slightly more positive side, George Galloway's Respect Coalition made a huge breakthrough in Tower Hamlets (the borough where Galloway won a seat in the general election). From the Respect website (http://www.respectcoalition.org/?ite=1073):
Respect breakthrough on Tower Hamlets Council

Respect dramatically won eleven seats on Tower Hamlets council with two wards still to announce.

In a very long night, Respect eclipsed the Liberal Democrats who were reduced to just four councillors from sixteen. New Labour lost its leader Michael Keith, deputy leader, mayor and several other cabinet members, including the controversial Cabinet member of housing David Edgar.

Nonetheless the collapse of the Lib Dems and limited gains for the Conservatives, who went from one to seven councillors, means Labour could still retain control of the council, despite the repudiation of its controversial housing privatisation policy. Two wards are still to announce after recounts were ordered. The count reconvenes at 2pm this afternoon.

The elections in Tower Hamlets were marred by widespread voting fraud and results in a number of wards will now be closely scrutinised. In particular, Limehouse ward may have to be rerun. Respect won two seats in Limehouse and looks forward to winning three if a free and fair election were now to take place. Respect will also be going to court to force the rerun of the St Katharine's and Wapping ward where Respect candidates were excluded by the Returning Officer in a decision described by the Court of Appeal as unlawful.

Had the elections not been so flawed, Respect would have certainly won even more council seats as some Respect candidates failed to be elected by just tens of votes.

Elsewhere Salma Yaqoob was elected with 55% of the vote in Birmingham in another dramatic breakthrough.

So Straw the lying fuck is gone eh? And 'Big Brother' Clarke too? Oh that's just too bad!

05-05-2006, 11:55 AM
I love having your across the pond perspective.

05-05-2006, 01:04 PM
Hey thanks!

I lived in the UK for three years (at Uni) so its of interest to me. It's also where I became 'addicted' to politics. I stayed up til 5am last night watching the results come in on the BBC (yes, I'm sad, I know!).

So, a couple of other things.

In total Labour lost about (all results are not yet in) 310 seats (they won 1340 seats), and lost overall control of 19 Councils (they now control 27).

The Tories gained about 300 seats (won 1783 seats), and overal control of 68 Councils (they now control 68).

The Liberal Democrats had a disastarous election. They gained only 1 seat (won a total of 904), and gained control of only 1 council (they now control 13). This in the midst of a Labour meltdown! They must be gutted.

The Greens (whgo I forgot to mention in the 'good news' above) gained 20 seats (with a total of 29 councillors now).

From what I've been able to glean - the BBC website is shite for info on the smaller parties, labelling virtually all of them under the banner of 'Others' - other lefty-type parties/groups got at least 9 seats (4 for the Socialist Party/Huddersfield NHS, and 5 for the Kidderminster Health Group - the bigtime baby!)

Should also be noted that these elections are only half of the councils in the country - the other half were elected last year. I don't know why, but that's the crazy system of the Brits.

And according to the BBC website: "On the basis of results in 700 key wards, the BBC projects the national share of vote at a general election would be as follows: CON 40%, LIB DEM 27%, LAB 26%, OTH 7%."

Not good, but of course the general elections never fully follow the trend of the locals which have both a strong element of local issues voting, and protest voting (ie, punishing the party in power in elections that don't really matter on the national level). Plus, there's always far lower voter turnouts for the locals. Still, its scary to see the tories with a potential forty percent :(

And this just in, seems Respect have won another seat in Tower Hamlets, bringing them up to 12, but with Labour still retaining overall control.

05-05-2006, 03:39 PM
Respect have won another seat in Newham (adding to the two they already had), bringing their total (UK-wide) to 16 seats.

And the BNP got another seat somewhere, taking them to 32 seats.

05-05-2006, 03:40 PM
The only shaking up that would help would be if he fired himself.

05-05-2006, 03:49 PM
The only shaking up that would help would be if he fired himself.

That will probably happen within the year.

I actually predicted that: "I can’t see Blair serving out his full term on this majority [...] and I predict Brown will take over in 2007", after the 2005 general election.

Oh well, the sooner the better.

05-06-2006, 01:03 PM
Plotters move to oust Blair
The Guardian (http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,,1768939,00.html?gusrc=rss)

· Ex-ministers tell PM to name date
· Sweeping reshuffle after polls drubbing

Tony Blair came under carefully choreographed public and private pressure from Gordon Brown's closest supporters yesterday to set out the timetable for his departure in the wake of dire local election results.In an escalation of the power struggle between New Labour's two creators, Andrew Smith, a former cabinet minister and an ally of Mr Brown, identified Mr Blair as the problem on the doorstep in the elections. He said: "We have uncertainty over the transition and it has to end very soon. It gets worse with every month that passes and reinforces the lack of trust in this government."

Ominously for Mr Blair, backing for the prime minister to agree an "orderly transition" soon is also coming from former Blairites such as Nick Raynsford and John Denham. Mr Raynsford said: "I now think it's going to be necessary to set out a timetable for the change of leadership, though I do not think we should be specific or seek to impose one. But the objective of stability for ministers to deliver on key policies will not be possible if there is uncertainty over the leadership. Ministers will be continually looking over their shoulders."

If Mr Blair does not bow to the pressure backbench MPs intend to publish a letter, possibly by the end of next week, with as many as 75 signatures calling on him to agree the transition or face a formal challenge. Mr Brown called the election result - Labour lost 306 seats and 18 councils - a "warning shot" that showed the party needed to renew itself in the same way as it had in the 80s. His aides said he would be speaking to Mr Blair over the weekend about the need for renewal and an orderly transition.

The prime minister will hold a press conference on Monday and address querulous Labour MPs later that night. Despite the pincer movement against him, there is a defiant mood in Downing Street based on the fact that Mr Blair was democratically elected only a year ago, the local election results were not calamitous and opinion polls do not show an overwhelming demand for him to go immediately. But Mr Brown believes the defeats reflect an irretrievable loss of trust in the prime minister.

Mr Blair sought to reimpose his authority by implementing his widest ever ministerial reshuffle yesterday, including the sacking of the home secretary, Charles Clarke. After keeping Mr Clarke in office for 10 days as he faced daily damaging attacks over his handling of the foreign prisoners fiasco, Mr Blair buckled, believing a debilitating drip of further revelations was inevitable and Mr Clarke could never regain his authority. Mr Clarke was offered the posts of defence secretary and environment secretary, but in a controlled display of independence rejected them, saying he would return to the backbenches.

Mr Blair said he was sorry to lose Mr Clarke, but added: "I felt that it was very difficult, given the level of genuine public concern, for Charles to continue in this post." Mr Clarke is replaced at the Home Office by the defence secretary, John Reid, his eighth cabinet post since 1997.

Margaret Beckett, another safe pair of hands, becomes foreign secretary, the first female foreign secretary in the department's 224-year history. Jack Straw, Mr Blair's loyal ally during the Iraq war, is demoted to the post of leader of the house with responsibility for Lords reform and the funding of political parties.

The other big casualty was John Prescott. As the Guardian revealed yesterday, he was stripped of his departmental responsibilities, but allowed to keep the post of deputy leader, deputy prime minister, his £135,000-a-year cabinet salary, and his grace-and-favour home in Dorneywood.

Allies of Mr Brown expressed displeasure at the appointment of Hazel Blears as chair of the party, replacing Ian McCartney. They were also disappointed that Hilary Armstrong lost her job as chief whip, to be sidelined as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and minister for social exclusion. She is replaced by Jacqui Smith, former schools minister.

Ruth Kelly was ousted as education secretary to become secretary for communities and local government.