British interior minister leads wave of resignations

LONDON- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was hit by a wave of resignations Tuesday led by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who media reports said will stand down in a cabinet reshuffle expected within days.
Smith will resign as part of a ministerial shake-up which is also expected to see finance minister Alistair Darling replaced, according to the BBC and Sky News television.

British interior minister leads wave of resignations
Brown, who must call a general election within a year, is under intense pressure amid an expenses row which has rocked parliament and led to a string of resignation announcements by lawmakers.
The cabinet reshuffle is widely expected to take place soon after Thursday's local and European Parliament elections, when polls suggest Brown's Labour party faces an electoral bloodbath.
But with just two days to go until the vote, Smith led the way in a string of resignations Tuesday that are only likely add to Brown's woes.
Junior minister for children Beverley Hughes said she wants to leave in the shake-up for family reasons, while Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson -- a close ally of Brown -- is also reported to be planning to step down.
Darling meanwhile is under pressure following revelations about his parliamentary expenses, a row which prompted another cull of MPs late Tuesday.
A special panel set up by Brown's Labour party to examine lawmakers caught up in the row banned four MPs from standing as Labour candidates at the next election. Three had already said they would quit.
Commentators have viewed the resignations as signs of Brown's loose hold on his government, and early editions of Wednesday's newspapers spoke of the "disarray" and "meltdown" at Downing Street.
"Rats Desert Sinking Ship," headlined the Daily Mail.
Ministers tipped for promotion in the forthcoming reshuffle include schools minister Ed Balls, a long-time aide of Brown who could succeed Darling as finance minister, and business minister Peter Mandelson, who could succeed Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Smith was one of the first senior politicians embarrassed by the recent leaks of information about lawmakers' expenses claims, which revealed that she had claimed for two adult movies viewed by her husband.
The BBC reported that she told Brown two months ago that she planned to step down at the next reshuffle, but nevertheless plans to stand for re-election as a member of parliament.
Meanwhile Darling was forced to apologise for a "mistake" in his expenses Monday after the Daily Telegraph reported that he claimed money on two properties at the same time -- a breach of parliamentary rules.
The finance minister pledged to repay 350 pounds (575 dollars, 405 euros) and refused to speculate on his future, saying only that Brown must decide.
"I am not going to make any predictions about anything that is going to happen in the next week," the prime minister said in response.

Wednesday, June 3rd 2009

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