A bland day in Downing Street

IT was just like an ordinary day in Downing Street - the weekly Thursday Cabinet meeting was presided Tony Blair and was described by his official spokesman as “Cabinet like any other.

IT was just like an ordinary day in Downing Street - the weekly Thursday Cabinet meeting was presided Tony Blair and was described by his official spokesman as “Cabinet like any other.”

But with the sound of broken reputations reverberating around Whitehall and Westminster, Cabinet members are either in a state of denial or just trying to shrug them off in true Harold Macmillan style: “events, dear boy, events.”

The previous day, Home Secretary Charles Clarke had been forced to admit that convicted murders, rapists, paedophiles and drug barons had been let loose on the streets after serving their sentences rather than being deported.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt was soundly rubbished by angry nurses because of the chaotic state of some health trusts which are having to make health professionals redundant, and then there was Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, caught with his trousers down after forced to admit to a two-year affair with one of his diary secretaries.


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Not really a day for the Blair government to remember with fondness. But the Prime Minister's favourite saying is “let's draw a line under it and move on” and he's desperately to get his message back on track with crucial local elections looming in London and elsewhere.

Mr Blair's spokesman said of yesterday's meeting: “Charles Clarke did a report on the subject of foreign prisoners, saying it was a systemic problem like any other, and saying he hoped to report by the end of the week on the more serious prisoners.”

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The spokesman said Mr Blair spoke up in support of the Home Secretary, saying that the problem was identified “because there were proper systems put in place in 1999 and followed through by a new management team last year.”

And apparently, the feel of the room was that colleagues were very supportive of Mr Clarke.

Ms Hewitt did not attend Cabinet because she was visiting a health centre in Dudley, in the West Midlands. But the spokesman said: “The Prime Minister admired the composed and calm way with which Patricia Hewitt dealt with what was a very difficult situation and the way she tried calmly to make the case for what the Government had done.”

Mr Prescott slunk into the meeting via an underground passage from the Cabinet Office which fronts Whitehall. No mention of his affair with Tracey Temple was made at the meeting.

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