Controversies of Clare Short

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The Independent Online

This is the source of her latest trouble, saying on BBC's Question Time that Bill Clinton, the man Tony Blair has unstintingly supported and considers a friend, has lied and lied and is no longer fit to be a leader. Yet, surely this is the same Clare Short who told New Statesman that her job means she can no longer tell the truth in public. She said she always spoke openly in Opposition, but: "Now I speak the truth in Cabinet, and in return I cannot speak my truth in public."


In a BBC documentary, Clare's New World, she claimed that a fellow cabinet minister made up a story saying she compared Ulster Unionists to the Ku Klux Klan. "It's just utterly malicious," she said. "It's someone [in] the Cabinet because it's a lie about a discussion that did take place." She also complained of "vultures" who wanted to "pick my eyes out". Cabinet colleagues dismissed her accusations.


One of her earlier gaffes, leading to tabloid headlines saying she had gone "potty". Ms Short, recently elected to the Shadow Cabinet, went on Breakfast with Frost and stated that Labour should consider backing the legalisation of cannabis. "We should get some archbishops and former chief constables and see if we can't organise the whole thing better." Jack Straw, then shadow home secretary, responded stiffly: "Labour's position is very clear. We are against the legalisation of cannabis and other soft drugs."


A volcano erupted on the island of Montserrat, and so did another series of gaffes by Ms Short. Just before Christmas last year she responded to islanders' claims for compensation with "they will be wanting golden elephants next". She had to apologise for that. Then, in a BBC documentary in January this year, she poured oil on the flames with: "It is not a help that the people and government of Montserrat shout at Britain for more and more." She was excluded from the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's trip to the island.


Trying to distance New Labour from the image of the party of punitive taxation, Tony Blair said during a visit to the US in l996 that people earning less than pounds 40,000 may pay less tax under Labour. Ms Short thensuggested the opposite. Then on pounds 34,000 a year, she said: "I think in a fair tax system people like me would pay a bit more tax." Mr Blair's aides said her comments had been "infelicitous".