Verdicts on the resignation of Gordon Brown's press secretary
and the consequences to New Labour
Clean up this shambles
CHARLIE WHELAN'S departure, along with that of Geoffrey Robinson, will grieve Gordon Brown as much as Peter Mandelson's loss will grieve Tony Blair. Although Mandelson, an elected MP and a Cabinet minister, was much the more influential figure, Whelan, too, had been at the centre of New Labour since its creation. There is a palpable sense of relief among ministers that both Mandelson and Whelan have left the heart of government. But before they toast the purge, they should recall one significant point: most newspapers are essentially hostile to this government. One of the myths about New Labour is that all journalists are under its spell. Yet I can remember countless occasions when Mandelson and Whelan, working separately, prevented damaging stories from taking off or managed to get front pages helpful to the Government. The mantle of the spin doctor now falls to Alastair Campbell alone. (Steve Richards)
CHARLIE WHELAN knew he had to go. But the Government is not, as the Tories claim, falling apart at the seams. However, when he returns from South Africa, Mr Blair must clean up the shambles.
Whelan was a star of the election campaign, successfully spinning Gordon Brown's campaign to reassure the better-off voters that he could be trusted not to raise their taxes.
He was a doggedly loyal henchman and a first-class communicator of complicated politics. However, Brown is still too powerful for his personal position to be seriously undermined.
Now that two of the prime spin doctors and in-fighters have gone, New Labour should make its New Start. A truce has to be enforced on the vendettas that divert attention from the Government's achievements. The Cabinet could actually give the impression of being a team.
NEW LABOUR is spinning out of control. Political infighting played a major role in the collapse of the last Conservative government, and what destroyed it can just as easily destroy Labour.
If, as the Prime Minister tells us, New Labour is "bigger than any one individual", then anyone who undermines him or the Government's integrity must go. And if that includes senior ministers, such as Peter Mandelson and Geoffrey Robinson, it certainly includes advisers and press aides such as Charlie Whelan.
GORDON BROWN no longer needs Charlie Whelan. Like the already departed Geoffrey Robinson, Mr Whelan belongs to Mr Brown's Prince Hal days. The roistering band of lads ate pizzas, watched football and plotted a new economic strategy, albeit in the elegance of the Grosvenor House rather than the more lowly Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap.
That was fine for opposition, but, in office, Mr Brown has outgrown this phase. So their resignations are a liberation, a chance for Mr Brown to develop as Chancellor, to demonstrate that he has "turned away my former self" and "those that kept me company".
The danger is that Mr Brown will, instead, see the departures of Mr Whelan and Mr Robinson as a personal defeat and a victory for his enemies. So he may turn even more upon himself. (Peter Riddell)
THE CRASHING fall of Charlie Whelan hopefully marks the beginning of the end of the era of the spin doctor. And not before time. Politics could well do without this breed of hatchetmen who do little to further the smooth running of government but do much to distort the truth. Gordon Brown is unlikely to risk resurrecting the spin doctor corpse when he chooses Mr Whelan's successor. (Sir Bernard Ingham)
OF COURSE, Charles Alexander James Whelan, loveable or unloveable as he may be, is no innocent. He is the Vinnie Jones of spin. Relatively untroubled by professional scruples, he was a lethally effective operator on behalf of Gordon Brown, as capable of brutal assassinations of "enemies" as he was brilliant at projecting - and protecting - his friends. But, in the end, he made too many enemies.
He was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as someone who imported the bitter tactics of Seventies sectarian union fighting into Nineties government. Though he served Mr Brown well, he knew that he was becoming a liability.
When the fate of a treasury press officer threatens to overshadow the launch of a single European currency it is time to bow out.
BILL CLINTON ON TRIAL
US opinion about the procedures that the Senate should employ in trying the impeachment of the President
The New York Times
AFTER THE strife in the House, the opening of the Senate trial of President Clinton looked reassuringly decorous. Senator Strom Thurmond, who was born only 34 years after Andrew Johnson's impeachment, swore in the big, calm-looking Chief Justice, William Rehnquist. The leaders' decision to tamp down party feuding and call a bipartisan caucus of all senators for this morning brought a surprisingly promising end to a grimly historic day that few expected to see. It is too early to declare that this marks the emergence of a rational statesmanship that has been missing in the House and at the White House. But the Senate has a momentous opportunity today to adopt rules that would shorten the trial, avoid months of redundant testimony and allow passage of a censure that the public and the evidence demand.
Dallas Morning News
THIS TRIAL will be one of the most monumental tests the US Senate has ever faced. Unfortunately, Americans may not get to see the full deliberations as senators reach their verdict about President Clinton's fate. Without on-the-scene cameras, the public will be left with only "sound bites" provided after the fact for the news shows, hardly befitting the complexity of the moment. The final deliberations must remain open to the public. This rare moment should prove a valuable civics lesson for the nation on both the Constitution and the importance of character in government.
The Washington Post
THE HOUSE, in our opinion, erred in its decision to impeach Mr. Clinton. But an impeachment by the House demands of the Senate a proceeding of sufficient rigor to satisfy the more moderate of Mr. Clinton's political foes - should the president ultimately be acquitted - that the Senate, at the least, did not shirk its obligation to face up to his odious conduct. For this reason, House managers should be given an opportunity to present senators with the case against Mr. Clinton in a manner that does not trivialize his behavior by trivializing its presentation.
As long as a majority of senators believe that additional testimony is necessary in order to inform their final votes, it seems reasonable to permit whatever witnesses the House wishes to call. The Senate can and should end the trial as soon as a majority of senators become convinced that hearing from more witnesses will not aid them in their determinations of how to vote.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
AS BILL Clinton approaches the zenith/nadir of his political career, all eyes should be glued on the opening of his trial in the Senate of the United States, its solemn ceremonies and once-in-a-century rituals, and the general national reaction is: Ho hum.
Despite the usual ponderous music and basso profundo voices of the announcers and commentators, the whole scene has all the solemnity of picking a number in the take-out line. The stage may be imposing, but somehow the central character has managed to shrink everything down to his own superficial dimension - the Capitol, the Constitution, the issues, the historical background, even the lies. The setting seems out of scale - too grand for the mediocre president being tried.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
IMPARTIAL JUSTICE? Hmmm. That's what 100 US senators have just sworn to pursue in the trial of Bill Clinton.
What I want to know is this: Will these five-score men and women abide by their pledge, or have they exposed themselves - as the President they're trying has done - to charges of lying under oath. (David Finkle)
THE NHS IN CRISIS
Views on the shortages of emergency services, hospital beds and nurses this winter in the National Health Service
ALL SORTS of shortages have created the crisis in the health service. But one symbolises all that is wrong - the shortage of nurses. Years of Tory neglect and deliberate cuts undermined nurses in many ways. Labour should have known all this when it came to power yet it is only today that Health Secretary Frank Dobson reveals the crisis. He is rightly proud that more nurses are being trained yet still there will not be enough of them.
NO HEALTH service, however richly endowed, can hope to cater for citizens who, struck by a common ailment, see no alternative but to seek a hospital bed. To some extent Mr Dobson and his political colleagues have brought this on their own heads. There is a disposition constantly to present the National Health Service as a cornucopia, available always to dispense limitless care to the sick for next to nothing. There is less emphasis laid on its obvious limitations and no emphasis at all on the obligation of all citizens to provide at least some primary health care within the home.
TO MEET the public's expectations, the NHS may have to maintain a greater amount of spare capacity to cope with a rush of patients, whether due to outbreaks of infectious diseases or, say, a spate of accidents in icy weather. And the more spare capacity hospitals maintain, the less efficient they are. In the end, the, there is no "right" number of beds. It is up to ministers, NHS officials and public opinion to decide on the cost effectiveness of the NHS and its ability to cope with sudden peaks in demand.
However many more nurses are recruited, more hospitals built and wards opened, the public's expectations will always exceed the NHS's capacity. Anecdotes of people with flu ringing 999 typify the culture of entitlement that now exists. Mr Dobson is trying to feed this appetite by spending an extra pounds 21bn on health over the next three years. This will merely fuel, rather than control, public expectations.
TRADING IN THE EURO
The European press evaluate the euro after the beginning of dealing in the new currency
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
THE WORLD financial markets greet the euro with strong gains. Europe's common currency wins noticeable value compared to the dollar on the very first trading day. And the euro is celebrated with strong gains on the stock and bond markets as well. No doubt: the euro has survived its first baptism by fire.
La Libre Belgique
THERE IS still a lot to play for. What happens for example if one of the euro-zone countries is hit by economic difficulties which do not affect the others? The devaluation weapon is no longer open to us. So a localised shock could lead to sharp recession. Euroland does not have the American safety valve, where workers can flee recession by moving from one state to another. And federal-style budgetary transfers are almost non-existent because the EU budget is Lilliputian by comparison with the US's.
THIS IS a message to the English: the ball is now in your court! The euro is waiting for you. The EU and its newborn money need you. You have always been highly sceptical toward the construction of Europe. You have always been dragging your feet to commit yourself to the European design. To you the EU was a "French idea", designed and run by a "continental bureaucracy" under a "German influence". Up till now you were willing to wait on the platform ... You are in the habit of waiting for European trains to start moving. Now the euro is launched, it is time for you to join it.
A ROYAL MARRIAGE
Comment following the announcement that
Prince Edward is to marry Sophie Rhys-Jones
THE MEDIA must be careful not to hound the newlyweds. Marriages face all sorts of pressures in the best of circumstances; having every action picked over by a ravenous media won't help Sophie and Edward to get off to a proper start.
SOPHIE'S LOOKS remind many of Diana, but there comparisons should end. Even her title could be sensitive. There could only ever be one People's Princess. The Queen must make Sophie a darling Duchess.
AFTER ANNE, Charles and Andrew we know better than to believe in fairy tales. Our thoughts should be reserved for Sophie Rhys-Jones. Numerous precedents suggest that it cannot be an easy thing to marry into the Royal Family, even at such an inconsequential level. The less she and Edward make of it the better.
WELL I don't know about you but I haven't slept. There I was putting away the Christmas decorations, wondering what I'd next hang from my bare walls, when I heard the joyous news. And with teary eyes I reached for my bunting and sewing kit and got cracking. Hurrah! for Edward and Sophie, I say. (Brian Reade).
SOPHIE COMMITTED her usual fashion faux pas yesterday, wearing another pair from her huge collection of round-toed, dumpy-heeled shoes. They look as though they belong to a woman twice her age, and do nothing for her ankles. (Trudi Wallace)
Stories from around the world
OHMIGOD, THEY stole Kenny... And Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Chef, too. Fans of the Comedy Central cartoon show South Park may recognize the familiarity of that line from the show, but to police, it describes a theft being investigated in Bally. The theft involves a holiday display of figures representing the South Park cast from the lawn of a home at Elm and North Church streets early Monday morning. As the home-crafted South Park scene's creator Liz Hillegass said, "It was a South Park manger-type scene". The fans of the Comedy Central cartoon hit spent $350 and considerable time making five figures from tomato cages and wire, and dressing them in appropriate clothing and masks.
The Times of India
FOR PATIENTS proceeding to the United States for surgery, there is disquieting news. Surgeons are removing wrong parts of the body there: amputating the wrong foot, removing the wrong kidney and operating the wrong side of the brain. Patients' bodies are now being autographed to avoid what has come to be called "wrong-site surgery". Patients are writing "yes" on one leg and "no" on the other so the healthy leg is not eliminated.
Research by Katy Guest