Thursday, March 30, 2006

So will Hilary sack Ashok?

Following on from yesterday's post, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn has now disowned his parliamentary aide, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Ashok Kumar, over this article in which he called on Tony Blair to quit.

Meanwhile Downing Street has attemped to stay out of the row, saying it is a matter for Hilary Armstrong, the Chief Whip.

That, of course, is nonsense. Hilary Armstrong can't chew gum without Tony Blair's permission, so she's unlikely to do anything as radical as sacking a PPS for saying something many in the Labour Party will agree with.

I think that what happens to Kumar could be a very interesting litmus test of the mood within Number 10 vis-a-vis the handover. If they are prepared to make a martyr of him over this, it would suggest to me that Blair is digging in for the long haul.

4pm update: He's kept his job. In other words, the most junior members of Mr Blair's administration can now openly call for the Prime Minister's resignation and not be sacked for it - an interesting reflection on the strength of his current political position.

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