May 5, 2006


Nightmare on Downing Street (George Jones, 06/05/2006, Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair carried out his biggest and most brutal Cabinet reshuffle yesterday as he attempted to shore up his position after one of the worst ever local election performances in Labour's history.

He signalled his determination to remain in Downing Street by promoting trusted and loyal ministers, sacking Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, and demoting six ministers, including Jack Straw and the disgraced John Prescott.

It was a defiant rebuff for supporters of Gordon Brown who stepped up their demands for Mr Blair to quit after Labour was relegated to third place behind the Tories and the Liberal Democrats and lost control of 18 local authorities.

But there was no sign that it had strengthened Mr Blair's authority, with growing calls last night from senior backbenchers for him to set out a timetable for a handover to the Chancellor.

Left-wing Labour MPs claimed they now had 50 signatories for a letter calling on Mr Blair to set an "early end date" to his premiership. They need 70 to force a leadership challenge. [...]

Last night the Tories had gained 300 council seats and 40 per cent of the vote - the share needed to secure power at a general election.

John Reid Tories toast a job well done but now hard work begins (Anthony King, 06/05/2006, Daily Telegraph)
In modern circumstances one party seldom emerges as the clear victor in any round of local elections. This year one did.

By any reasonable measure, the Conservatives won decisively on Thursday. It was their first unqualified electoral triumph in nearly a generation. [...]

A figure of 40 per cent is the highest the Conservatives have scored since 1992, the year in which they last won a general election.

It is still far from clear whether Mr Cameron has made his new-model Conservative Party electable but he has succeeded in making it less frightening to voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 5, 2006 8:41 PM
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