Blair reeling after Short quits

CLARE Short last night delivered a devastating indictment of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his style of government as she finally quit the Cabinet as International Development Secretary.

CLARE Short last night delivered a devastating indictment of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his style of government as she finally quit the Cabinet as International Development Secretary.

She resigned saying he had personally breached assurances he had given her over the United Nations' role in post-conflict Iraq.

She accused him and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of cutting secret deals behind her back and warned MPs the premier was becoming "obsessed" with his place in history.

In a stinging Commons assault she accused Mr Blair's Downing Street of adopting a control freak attitude, imposing policy by diktat and bypassing the expertise of other Whitehall departments.


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The ferocity of her attack astonished Government ministers and left Tory MPs wincing in the chamber as she delivered the most cutting resignation speech Westminster has heard since Norman Lamont quit the Treasury accusing John Major of being "in office but not in power."

Mr Blair has suffered nothing like it, coming as it did from a former Cabinet colleague who had held her post since the day he took office in No 10 in 1997.

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The day of Westminster drama began shortly after 10am when Ms Short, with no prior notice, put through a call to No 10 to tell Mr Blair she was quitting. After a five-minute conversation her office relayed news of her departure to PA News, catching Downing Street's machine on the hop.

Ms Short then swiftly released her resignation letter, levelling a series of charges at No 10 and the Foreign Office.

During her personal statement to MPs, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Commons Leader John Reid and Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong sat stony faced as Ms Short laid out the case against Mr Blair and his administration.

She blasted: "Increasingly those who are wielding power are not accountable and are not scrutinised.

"Thus we have the powers of a presidential type system with the automatic majority of a parliamentary system.

"These arrangements are leading to increasingly poor policy initiatives being rammed through Parliament - straining and abusing party loyalty, and undermining the people's respect for our political system.

"These attitudes are also causing increasing problems with reform of the public services.

"I do believe that after long years of financial cuts and decline, public services need reform...We do not, however, need endless new initiatives, layers of bureaucratic accountability and diktats from the centre.

"To the Prime Minister I would say that he has achieved great things since 1997 but, paradoxically, he is in danger of destroying his legacy as he becomes increasingly obsessed by his place in history."

She disclosed that she had offered her resignation to the Prime Minister on a number of occasions during the run up to the war but was pressed to stay.

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