Brown defiant as more Ministers quit

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Hasan Suroor

Prime Minister hastily reshuffles his Cabinet in bid to defuse a crisis

LONDON: On a shambolic day for Prime Minister Gordon Brown four more high-profile Ministers, including Defence Secretary John Hutton, resigned and Labour was decimated in county elections as he hastily reshuffled his Cabinet in a desperate attempt to defuse the crisis over his leadership.

But even as desertions piled up around him, a defiant Mr. Brown insisted that he was still in control and would “not walk away .” He also rejected calls for an early general election.

“I will not waver. I will not walk away. I will get on with the job,” Mr Brown said at a press conference as the number of Ministers who have resigned for various reasons in the past 48 hours rose to seven amid a growing campaign to oust him over his handling of the MPs’ expenses scandal and weak leadership style.

Besides Mr. Hutton, others who quit on Friday included Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, Employment Minister Tony McNulty and Europe Minister Caroline Flint, who, until a few hours before, was protesting her loyalty to the Prime Minister. She quit after failing to get a promotion to a full Cabinet job.

She accused Mr. Brown of treating women ministers “like female window-dressing.”

However, Mr. Hoon’s resignation was not linked to the crisis. He will be Prime Minister’s European policy adviser.

Mr. Hutton too sought to distance himself from the anti-Brown campaign insisting that he was leaving for family reasons and would remain loyal to the Prime Minister.

The reshuffle was expected next week but Mr. Brown was forced to bring it forward after the dramatic resignation late on Thursday night by Pensions Secretary James Purnell.

It came barely hours after Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and the Communities Secretary Hazel Blears — both embroiled in the expenses scandal — quit.

In his resignation letter, he urged Mr. Brown to step down saying: “I now believe your continued leadership makes Conservative victory more, not less likely.”

The reshuffle saw Health Secretary Alan Johnson, who is the favourite to succeed Mr. Brown in the event of a leadership change, promoted to Home Secretary.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who was expected to be moved, remains in his post as he reportedly refused to accept a change. There had been speculation that Mr. Brown wanted Chancellor Alistair Darling to move to another department but failed to persuade him.



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