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Howard and Blair trade book blows


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#1    Talon

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 03:57 PM

Howard and Blair trade book blows
Tony Blair and Michael Howard have hurled book insults at each other as they clashed over David Blunkett's criticisms of his Cabinet colleagues.
In the last prime minister's questions of the year, the Tory leader urged Mr Blair to read the new biography of the home secretary over Christmas.

After reading Mr Blunkett's comments, Mr Blair could explain Labour's "total failure to deliver", said Mr Howard.

Mr Blair hit back, quoting Mr Howard as saying unemployment did not matter.

Book throwing

The exchanges saw Mr Howard lob the new biography "hot off the press" onto the prime minister's despatch box.

In the book, Mr Blunkett says Education Secretary Charles Clarke has gone "soft" on standards, Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt does not think strategically and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is too sensitive about his nickname "Two Jags".

As he left the Commons later, Mr Blair left the book untouched but government Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong unceremoniously tossed it to Tory frontbencher Alan Duncan.

That prompted a protest from Conservative MP Eric Forth, who urged the Speaker of the Commons to "throw the book" at the chief whip for her behaviour.

Commons Speaker Michael Martin made light of the incident, joking that it was better to exchange Christmas books outside the chamber.

Failed promises?

In his offensive, Mr Howard accused Mr Blair of failing to fulfil his promises, pointing to rising levels of homeless families, crime levels and problems with pension provision.

But the prime minister said Tory plans for government would cut 400m off the housing budget, and defended Labour's record on pensions and crime.

And faced with the taunts over the Blunkett biography, he produced some Christmas reading of his own - the diaries of former MP Woodrow Wyatt.

He quoted Mr Wyatt saying then Employment Secretary Mr Howard had told him in 1991 that "unemployment never matters" in a general election campaign.

Mr Blair said unemployment had risen by one million under Mr Howard - something which showed the dividing lines between Tories and Labour.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/4098123.stm



"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#2    Talon

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 12:12 AM

Blunkett quits as home secretary
David Blunkett has quit as home secretary after an e-mail emerged showing a visa application for his ex-lover's nanny had been fast-tracked.
The e-mail had said "no favours but slightly quicker". Mr Blunkett said he had not been aware of its contents and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

But he said questions about his honesty had damaged the government.

Downing Street has named education secretary Charles Clarke as Mr Blunkett's replacement.


Mr Clarke said he was "exhilarated" by the challenge ahead but added: "There will be continuity between David's approach and mine."

Cabinet Office minister Ruth Kelly will replace Mr Clarke as education secretary.

Tony Blair described Mr Blunkett as a force for good in British politics who had "left government with his integrity intact".

Sir Alan Budd's inquiry into the nanny allegations established there had been an exchange of e-mails about the visa application between Mr Blunkett's office and immigration officials.

Mr Blunkett said: "I have always been honest about my recollection of events.

'Mortified'

"But any perception of this application being speeded up requires me to take responsibility.

"That is why with enormous regret I have tendered my resignation to the prime minister today."

Former civil servant Sir Alan had been due to unveil his findings before the Christmas break.

Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis paid tribute to Mr Blunkett saying he was a "tough opponent".

But Mr Davis said he had quit because he realised the Budd inquiry would "find against him".

Mr Davis added: "This sort of misuse of office is not allowed in British politics."

In an emotional interview with BBC Political Editor Andrew Marr, Mr Blunkett said: "I did not in August initiate the terrible trauma of my relationship (with ex-lover Kimberley Quinn) coming to the fore.

"I did not in late November start the plethora of linking my private life with public events again.

"I am mortified that that was done and I am very sorry. I'm not even angry, I'm just terribly hurt and I want people to know that in my public life I have always tried to help people.

"I have never tried to fiddle my role as leader of the city of Sheffield, as an MP or as a minister."

Mr Blunkett suggested he had been willing to sacrifice his political career to pursue his paternity claim to Mrs Quinn's son.

"He will want to know not just that his father actually cared enough about him to sacrifice his career, but he will want to know, I hope, that his mother has some regret."

'Right thing'

The prime minister has stood by Mr Blunkett throughout the row.

But the home secretary's position became more uncertain after he criticised a string of Cabinet colleagues in a new biography.

A copy of a new biography of Mr Blunkett - containing attacks on colleagues - was hurled across the Commons chamber by government Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong.

Her gesture was widely interpreted as expressing her frustration at the continuing controversy enveloping the then home secretary.

Mr Blunkett said Mr Blair had "backed me to the hilt," adding: "I have built my reputation on honesty, I have sometimes been too honest."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said Mr Blunkett had done the right thing.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/4099581.stm



"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#3    Lottie

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 02:27 PM

Clarke steps into Blunkett's role                                
    
Charles Clarke has started work at the Home Office on Thursday following the resignation of David Blunkett.  

Mr Blunkett quit as home secretary on Wednesday after an e-mail emerged showing a visa application for his ex-lover's nanny had been fast-tracked.

The e-mail had said "no favours but slightly quicker". Mr Blunkett said he had not been aware of its contents and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

Ruth Kelly has replaced Mr Clarke as education secretary.


As he departed, Mr Blunkett said questions about his honesty had damaged the government.

But Downing Street stressed Tony Blair's "continuing admiration" for Mr Blunkett.

A spokesman denied Mr Blair was embarrassed about his staunch support for the ex-home secretary.

Mr Clarke said his priority was to protect Britain against organised crime and international terrorism "to create a secure country in which everybody can live at peace".

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock said Mr Clarke, who used to be his chief of staff, had liberal instincts and a fundamental belief in "fair play".

His first day in the job began with the UK's highest court, the law lords in the House of Lords, ruling that the policy of detaining foreign terror suspects without trial broke European human rights laws.

Mr Blair completed the reshuffle prompted by Mr Blunkett's departure by making Stephen Twigg schools minister.  

Derek Twigg will leave the whips office to become a junior education minister, and James Purnell leaves the back benches to become a whip.  

BBC political editor Andrew Marr said the prime minister had promoted younger ministers who were "rather in Tony Blair's own image".

'Mortified'

Mr Blunkett said he had decided to quit after Sir Alan Budd's inquiry into the nanny claims uncovered e-mails about the visa application between Mr Blunkett's office and immigration officials.

He said: "I have always been honest about my recollection of events.  

"But any perception of this application being speeded up requires me to take responsibility."

Former civil servant Sir Alan had been due to unveil his findings before the Christmas break.

Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said Mr Blunkett had to go after breaking the rules.

Mr Blunkett told the BBC he had not made public the "terrible trauma" of his affair or linked his private life with public role.

"I am mortified that that was done and I am very sorry," he said.  

Mr Blunkett suggested he had been willing to end his political career to pursue his paternity claim to Mrs Quinn's son.

"He will want to know not just that his father actually cared enough about him to sacrifice his career, but he will want to know, I hope, that his mother has some regret."

Labour election supremo Alan Milburn said the resignation of Mr Blunkett, a key ally of Mr Blair, was a loss to the government but he said he hoped he could one day make a comeback.  

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said his party fundamentally disagreed with many of Mr Blunkett's policies but he was "sad to see someone brought down in this way".

He urged Mr Clarke to rethink plans for identity cards - but the new home secretary told the BBC he intended to push ahead with ID cards.



#4    Talon

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 03:38 PM

What if Blunkett were African?
By Joseph Winter
BBC News website, Africa desk  


UK Home Secretary David Blunkett has resigned after it emerged that his office had fast-tracked a visa application for his ex-lover's nanny.


An e-mail was sent which said the application should receive "no favours but slightly quicker".
Mr Blunkett insisted that he had done nothing wrong and his close friend and ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had "left government with his integrity intact".

If an interior minister in most African countries had helped with a visa application for an acquaintance in this way, no-one would have batted an eyelid.

If the details had been leaked to an African newspaper, they would not have seen it as a story - such abuse of power, and far more extreme versions, are taken for granted.

'Big boss'


And this goes right to the heart of many of the continent's problems. If you are in a position of authority, it is to be expected that you personally, and then your friends, relatives and hangers-on will benefit.
Visit the waiting room of most African ministers and there is a long queue of people waiting to see "the big boss".


They will have a variety of reasons, an aunty looking for some money, a distant cousin who has just left school looking for a job and, in all possibility, the nanny of a girlfriend looking for her visa to be fast-tracked.

The pressure on African ministers is well described by one of Nigeria's most famous authors, Chinua Achebe in his book, No Longer At Ease, published in 1960.

Despite starting out with the best intentions as a new civil servant, Obi Okonkwo eventually gives in to the multiple requests from his extended family, leading to his downfall.


In most countries, little has changed since then. And it is not just ministers, but anyone in any position of power.
I have a good friend who used to work at the airport in one African country.

This meant that whenever I arrived at the airport, he introduced me to the customs officials, who waved me through without the usual rigmarole of searching my bags and asking for a bribe in order to waive some customs duty or other fee.

This may seem like a minor transgression - like Mr Blunkett's - but it goes to the heart of Africa's poor governance.

Rule of law

Rules are not the same for everyone.

If you know the right people, you can get a visa quickly. If not, you go to the bottom of a very long queue.

Newly appointed staff in many ministries will be from the same region or ethnic background as the minister and the top civil servants.

A study was recently carried out in Kenyan ministries, which found that many ministries were dominated by one particular group.

One businessman in Somalia, where there is no government, recently told me that he is not allowed to sell certain goods in Kenya because businessmen close to the government have been awarded a monopoly.

Rare resignations

Because being in government leads to such perks, not to mention the possibility of corruption when lucrative government contracts are awarded, people are more willing to take up arms to fight for power.

Especially when people from one region or ethnic group feel that they are being marginalised from power.

And once in power, there is a determination to stay whatever the cost.

Ministerial resignations remain all too rare, although there is some room for optimism now that a few African presidents have voluntarily left power.

David Blunkett's error was nothing compared to the corruption in some governments but the fact that he had to resign should be seized on by those campaigning for better governance in Africa.




What do you think? Would a minister in your country resign over this issue? Would such behaviour be expected or are things changing?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4101439.stm

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#5    Talon

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Posted 19 December 2004 - 11:16 AM

Blair 'damaged' by Blunkett row
A majority of voters (68%) believe the prime minister has been damaged by the row over David Blunkett's involvement in a visa application, a poll suggests.
But nearly half those surveyed said Mr Blunkett should return to Cabinet if Labour won the next election.

Some 63% of respondents in the Sunday Times poll thought his former lover - Kimberly Quinn - acted vindictively and 61% that he had been right to resign.

YouGov polled a weighted sample of 1,981 voters online on 16-18 December.

Mr Blunkett resigned as Home Secretary on Wednesday after an inquiry uncovered an e-mail showing a visa application by Mrs Quinn's former nanny had been speeded up.

Sir Alan Budd's inquiry also found Mr Blunkett's account of events had been wrong.

Almost a quarter (21%) of those polled for the Sunday Times said he should return to the Cabinet straight after the election.

One in four said he should be back in the Government's top ranks within a year or two while 39% opposed a comeback.

Varying sympathy

Three-quarters said Mr Blunkett was right to go to court for the right to see Mrs Quinn's son - whom he says he fathered - and just 14% voiced sympathy for Mrs Quinn.

A total of 53% of those polled said they had sympathy for Mr Blunkett, with 40% saying they did not.

Forty-three per cent thought Mr Blunkett had done a good job as home secretary and 17% disagreed.

Meantime, 32% said Mr Blair was a good prime minister and 38% disagreed. A majority, 52%, said Chancellor Gordon Brown had done a good job and just 16% disagreed.

Party support

A second poll for the Independent on Sunday found that support for all political parties remained largely unchanged after the Blunkett controversy.

Labour lead the Conservatives by 39% to 34% with the Liberal Democrats on 19%.

CommunicateResearch interviewed 401 people before David Blunkett's resignation and 601 afterwards.

Some 82% said Mr Blunkett had set a good example by wanting to take responsibility for the child he says is his, but 42% backed his legal action compared to 45% who thought it was unbecoming.

Thirty per cent said the affair showed Mr Blunkett could not be trusted as a minister while 63%, disagreed.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/4108389.stm


"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato




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