| Clare Short
London, May 12: Clare Short, the international development secretary resigned today from Tony Blair’s government, accusing the Prime Minister of “shameful” behaviour in not sticking up for a proper role for the UN in Iraq.
“She went before she was pushed,” commented a Labour party colleague of Short, referring to weekend reports that Blair was about to sack her for persistently failing to toe the government line.
In her Birmingham seat of Ladywood, Short retains the support of many of her Indian constituents, according to a close friend, Ranjit Sondhi, a BBC governor and a close friend whom she apparently consulted over the weekend.
“I knew she was going,” Sondhi told The Telegraph. “She is a very honourable lady and she will be missed by the aid agencies.”
Few doubt Short’s commitment to her work but her credibility was badly damaged just before the war when she accused Blair of being “reckless” and pledged to resign. But then she remained in the government, badly undermining the anti-war cause. Today, she said Blair had persuaded her to stay by promising that the UN would have a vital role to play in Iraq’s reconstruction.
She now felt forced to resign because she felt that Blair had breached the promise he had made to her and because she felt the British government’s position was “indefensible”.
Although it is a weakened Short who is quitting government, there is the potential for her and for Robin Cook, who stuck to his principles and resigned from the Cabinet as leader of the Commons over the war, to snipe at Blair from the backbenches.
With weapons of mass destruction yet to be found and law and order still absent in Iraq, Blair knows the war has proved unpopular with many Britons.
Short is being replaced by Baroness Amos, a Black woman who is the foreign office minister and who speaks on international development in the House of Lords. Short told Blair she was going to resign. The Prime Minister was “surprised”, she said.
In her “Dear Tony” letter to Blair, Short set out the arguments for her decision to quit.
“As you know, I thought the run-up to the conflict in Iraq was mishandled, but I agreed to stay in the government to help support the reconstruction effort for the people of Iraq,” she said.
“I am afraid that the assurances you gave me about the need for a UN mandate to establish a legitimate Iraqi government have been breached.”
She went on: “The Security Council resolution that you and Jack (Straw, foreign secretary) have so secretly negotiated contradicts the assurances have given in the House of Commons and elsewhere about the legal authority of the occupying powers, and the need for a UN-led process to establish a legitimate Iraqi government. “This makes my position impossible.”
She concluded: “I am sad and sorry that it has ended like this.”