Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Barely hours after Prime Minister Gordon Brown was widely seen to have reasserted his authority with a spirited speech at the Labour Party’s annual conference, a high-profile Cabinet Minister on Wednesday announced that she would quit at the next reshuffle expected soon.

Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Transport and was rumoured to be among those likely to dropped during the reshuffle, insisted her decision was prompted by personal reasons and she would continue to support Mr. Brown’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Ms. Kelly, who has four young children, said she had decided to “step back” to put her family ahead of political career.

“As well as a frontline politician, I’m also proud to be a mother and a wife. To have been able to hold these jobs, I’ve relied on the support of my husband and my family… I now owe it to my children and family to take a step back and start putting them first,” said Ms. Kelly, whose strict Catholic beliefs have often clashed with government policies on issues like stems-cell research.

Mr. Brown also sought to play down the significance of her resignation saying she had told him about her plans back in May.

“There are no political issues between Ruth and me,” he told the BBC.

On GMTV, he said: “It is nothing to do with politics. She’s got four children...She wants to be there as they grow up.”

Miliband’s future

Meanwhile, there is speculation whether Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who has emerged as a front-runner to replace Mr. Brown in the event of a leadership contest, would survive in his present position after the reshuffle.

“She indicated...to the Prime Minister that at the next reshuffle he carried out, she would stand down,” Ms. Kelly’s special adviser said.