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Blair reshuffles

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  • Greg Cannon
    Imagine that, getting rid of cabinet members because they re unpopular with the public. http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/05/05/D8HDJ4D81.html Tony Blair
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2006
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      Imagine that, getting rid of cabinet members because
      they're unpopular with the public.

      http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/05/05/D8HDJ4D81.html

      Tony Blair Fires Foreign Secretary
      May 05 7:07 AM US/Eastern

      By BETH GARDINER
      Associated Press Writer

      LONDON

      Prime Minister Tony Blair fired his law and order
      chief Friday and chose a new foreign secretary 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.

      Home Secretary Charles Clarke, embroiled in a
      politically damaging furor over the failure to deport
      foreign criminals, confirmed that 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.

      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.

      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.

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

      "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 critic of Blair, 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 main 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 in Thursday's elections 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.

      Labour's poor showing was likely to embolden those
      calling for Blair to step down soon or at least offer
      a timeline as to when he may leave office.

      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.

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

      ___

      Associated Press writers Beth Gardiner and Daniel
      Woolls contributed to this story.
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