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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?