Politics: Minister in fight for his career

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The Independent Online
ONE OF Tony Blair's least-known Cabinet ministers yesterday bared his soul to a select committee of MPs over a whispering campaign around Whitehall that he will be sacked in the next reshuffle.

David Clark attacked the rumours of his imminent sacking as "tittle tattle" and he put up a powerful fight for his Cabinet career with an end-of-term report to MPs, which may be seen as his swansong.

He got the backing of a group of Labour MPs who tabled a Commons motion urging Mr Blair to change his obscure title from Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to minister for public service, rather than sack him.

But it turned into a double-edged sword as one of the MPs who praised him, Peter Bradley, went on to say that in his constituency of the Wrekin, none of 50 constituents he had questioned knew what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was supposed to do.

While other Cabinet ministers have made serious gaffes, the MPs believe Mr Clark's only failure is his modesty. Mr Bradley, a member of the committee, told Mr Clark: "You talk about a quiet revolution. I would like the volume turned up."

But Mr Clark made it clear he did not want to change his quiet style. "There is a pretty quiet revolution going on within the department but it has got to be done in a quiet way."

Mr Clark's changes to public service include:

t Promoting easier ways to renew TV licences and road fund licences through the use of credit swipe cards in machines in shopping malls.

t Allowing benefit claimants to have their money paid into Post Office savings accounts by electronic means.

t A Freedom of Information Bill, which he promises to publish before the summer recess.

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