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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 05:35 GMT 06:35 UK
Papers mark Clare Short's departure

The parliamentary sketch writers had a field day describing the atmosphere on Labour benches in the Commons as Clare Short delivered her withering resignation speech.

Simon Hoggart in The Guardian says the small handful of cabinet members who were present sat staring ahead like firing squad victims who have refused the blindfold.

Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail uses the language of naval warfare to capture the devastation wrought by her speech. "She scored a direct hit to the bridge" he says.

"Acrid smoke was followed by white-eyed blinking as Blairites gave a wheeze and inspected their tattered, torn epaulettes."

Peter Riddell in The Times says Ms Short was "grotesquely over the top" in her condemnation of Tony Blair's leadership.

He believes she will be as uninfluential outside the cabinet and she was inside it.

For The Daily Star the only surprise about the resignation is that it took so long.

Referring to Ms Short as "the belligerent Brummie" it wishes her well in her new life outside the government - and hopes that she "shuts the hell up".

Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun is equally brutal. He says her "rambling, self-pitying resignation whinge" left her looking spiteful.

The Financial Times prefers to pay warm tribute to her achievements in office. In an editorial, the paper says that while other countries have been reducing aid to the developing world, Ms Short fought and succeeded in increasing Britain's contribution.

She has always championed the poor against vested interests and, the paper says, she departs a flawed but courageous politician.

The Tories' decision to scrap university tuition fees in England is warmly welcomed by The Daily Express which describes it as a policy that will win friends.

It believes that for a party obsessed with infighting for so long, it is welcome to see the Conservatives thinking seriously about issues that concern voters.

The Telegraph says the policy is designed to win back middle class voters who have become disillusioned with Labour and will form the bedrock of the party's election manifesto.

There is much speculation this morning over the whereabouts of "Stakeknife" - the senior IRA man accused of being a British army spy.

The Times has reason to believe he is under military protection at a former US airbase in the Home Counties. It says the base is one of the most secure military establishments in the UK.

According to The Independent however, Sinn Fein believes the alleged double agent is still in Belfast.

It quotes one party spokesman as saying the man, Freddie Scappaticci, had been in contact with Sinn Fein yesterday afternoon and, at the time of the interview, was at home eating his dinner.

And finally, The Mirror congratulates the cricketer Phil Tufnell for winning the TV programme, I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

It says that during the gruelling fortnight of the competition he had had to face all manner of hardships - including having to eat five plates of creepy crawlies.

The paper says Phil Tufnell's unfailing good humour made him the perfect companion in the jungle - and a deserving winner.

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