Resignations required?

Some of Tony Blair's critical allies face calls for their resignation. Will all or any of them survive.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has been the most critical of the three. His genuine working class and old Labour credentials have helped to insulate Blair from rebellion within the Labour Party. As Blair's own hold on Labour weakens Prescott's role is perhaps of increasing importance. But he is getting older, and his own capital with the left is diminishing. When Blair goes, he has no more than a year to two left at the first rank of the Party, and he may want to retire before then. But there is really no reason for Prescott to quit. He has had an affair, but this is a purely personal matter. Unless, like David Blunkett, he has abused his position he is weakened, but safe.

Charles Clarke, by contrast has been seen as a possible future leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. Someone will fight Gordon Brown for the leadership, and a week ago it looked as though Clarke would make the strongest candidate. But he has presided over chaos in the prison system that could yet cost him his job. Failed asylum seekers due for deportation and convicted of criminal offences were simply released from prison instead of being deported. It turns out that some have even committed more crimes.

Patricia Hewitt was another possible rival to Gordon Brown. Yet the chaos in the NHS seems to have caused the PM to lose confidence in her. The problem here is that Hewitt has been loyally implementing the policies that Blair and Brown have devised. To sack her would be to admit that the twin pillars of the administration have failed.

Of the three, only Clarke faces immediate risk to his job. But such a serious meltdown in the cabinet poses a risk to Blair himself.

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