Clare Short quits the Labour whip, citing Blair's deceit

Clare Short angrily resigned yesterday as a Labour MP, condemning Tony Blair for "half truths and deceits" over the war on Iraq and accusing his Government of being "arrogant" and "error-prone".

The former Cabinet minister furiously attacked the Chief Whip Jacqui Smith for bringing about the "breaking point" that forced her to quit the Labour whip in the Commons after 23 years.

She also accused the Labour leadership of dirty tricks by leaking her letter of resignation to the press, saying it had been posted privately to the Chief Whip on Thursday.

News of her resignation broke as Ms Short was visiting a local hospital in her Birmingham Ladywood constituency.

But Ms Smith hit back, accusing Ms Short of leaking her decision to the media. She said: "It is unfortunate she decided to announce this through a leak to the media rather than to her constituency Labour Party."

As the furious recriminations continued, Ms Short spoke of the pain of her decision to resign the Labour whip. Speaking to The Independent, Ms Short said she wanted to stay on as a Labour member but would sit as an independent MP until the election, when she will retire from Westminster.

However, there is likely to be a move by her local Birmingham Ladywood constituency party to throw her out.

Ms Short said she had agonised over her decision, but decided to resign because of the threats she had received from the Labour Chief Whip.

She was reprimanded for writing in The Independent that she hoped there would be a hung Parliament at the next election that would lead to reform of the voting system and more democratic checks on the power of Downing Street.

In her letter of resignation, she defiantly repeated her call, saying: "Given that the next election might well produce a hung parliament, I want to be free to argue that this creates a valuable opportunity to reform our voting system so that the House of Commons more accurately reflects public opinion and we have a parliament more able to hold the Government to account..."

Ministers brushed aside her departure last night. One said: "Clare had become pretty semi-detached." But she remains a popular figure who will now be free to hound Mr Blair until he resigns from office next year.

Ms Short had grown increasingly disenchanted with Labour after resigning over the war on Iraq. She said she had become "ashamed" of the Government under Mr Blair, whom she accused of deception.

Her resignation as a Labour MP was announced without her authority as she visited a hospital in Birmingham. She was furious that the Chief Whip claimed that it had been Ms Short who informed the press.

Ms Short accused Mr Blair of lying to her to keep her in the Government when she had threatened to resign from the Cabinet before the war on Iraq. "There is a famous allegation against me that I didn't resign at the time of the war on Iraq. That was because Tony Blair had entered into a negotiation with me to try to get me to stay. I said to him, if you can't stop the war, then what is crucial is we move forward on the road map for the Middle East, and get the Palestinian state established, and we absolutely internationalise the reconstruction. It would be led by the UN and backed by the international community. He promised those things and it wasn't true. He just said that to fool me, but I believed he was sincere." She added: "I still think, even though the rush to war was long, if those things had been done, the Middle East would be an entirely different place and Iraq would be a totally different place than it is today.

"That is the biggest error he has made. It is such a serious problem for the world, it strengthened al-Qa'ida, it strengthened the willingness of people to contemplate the use of violence, it is breaking up the international system at a time when we need more international cooperation than ever to deal with environmental threats and global warming.

"But then there is the issue of top up fees, all the erosion of civil liberties, cash for peerages - more and more errors have come piling on to depart more for social democratic values that have made it more difficult to support the Government."

She was sceptical that Gordon Brown - a former close ally - will change Labour when he takes over from Mr Blair. "It's still very likely to be Gordon and I hope he changes the policy on Iraq. It would be wonderful if he does so. It's always important to get change but I think so much has gone on it's going to be very difficult to bring things around to what could have happened.

"What I want is a chance to speak honestly without a constant stream of complaints from the Chief Whip that I can't advocate a change in the electoral system."

Former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle, a staunch opponent of the Iraq War, said: "I am sad she has chosen to resign. I would ask what she hopes to achieve by resigning. No matter how strongly you feel about issues, you should stay in the party and fight your cause."

Labour peer Lord Foulkes, who was her deputy at the Department for International Development, commented: "I always thought this was inevitable. It is a bit like the final act of a modern Greek tragedy."

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "The Labour Party is divided and paralysed, and it is no surprise that Clare Short has decided to jump ship."

Resignation letter to Jacqui Smith, Chief Whip

"I am sorry it has come to this but after a lifetime of service to the Labour Party and 23 years in the House of Commons, I think I am entitled to discuss what has gone wrong with the Government and our political system in my remaining years as an MP.

"It is my view that our political system is in trouble and that the exaggerated majorities in the House of Commons have led to an abject parliament and a concentration of power in Number 10 that has produced arrogant, error-prone government. Given that the next election might well produce a hung parliament, I want to be free to argue that this creates a valuable opportunity to reform our voting system so that the House of Commons more accurately reflects public opinion and we have a parliament more able to hold the Government to account and to ensure that policy is well considered.

"As you know, I am critical of many other aspects of Government policy. The previous Chief Whip tried to use her authority to stop me discussing the fact that the Prime Minister engaged in a series of half-truths and deceits to get us to war in Iraq. You focus on my views on electoral reform. The consequence is a string of rebukes, usually through the media. In the circumstances, I think the best way to ensure that I can put forward my views for my remaining time in Parliament is for me to resign the Whip. I will therefore sit in the House of Commons as an independent Labour MP.

"I remain proud of the history of the Labour Party and a convinced Social Democrat."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower