BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Talking Point  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Was Stephen Byers right to quit?
Beleaguered Transport Secretary Stephen Byers resigned on Tuesday.

He told a press conference in Downing Street that he was leaving the cabinet as by remaining in office he was "damaging the government".

Stephen Byers had faced calls for his resignation from both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats over his handling of the Martin Sixsmith resignation.

He has also come under heavy criticism for his role as transport secretary as the public lost confidence in the UK's railways.

Was Stephen Byers right to quit? What does this mean for the government?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

His resignation is sad

Philip, England
Stephen Byers has an excellent track record in several departments across the Government. His resignation is sad as he was one of very few who could take the bull by the horns and actually sort out Railtrack, by getting rid of this Tory sell-out.
Philip, England

Yes he was right to resign but he should have been accompanied by Tony Blair - now THAT would do nicely!
Alkan, London

'People who really know me know that I'm not a liar' - Roy Keane on Monday.

'People who really know me know that I'm not a liar' - Steven Byers on Tuesday.

They must have the same spin doctor....
Nick, England

The debate should now turn away from Mr Byers and to the more important issues of policy

Simon Davey, UK
I think that Mr Byers has done the honourable thing in going. He was right to acknowledge the fact that media attention really was damaging the Government's image. However the debate should now turn away from Mr Byers and to the more important issues of policy. We need to debate our rail network and how we persuade people from their cars. With the appointment of Mr Darling as Transport Secretary I hope that it is policy that becomes the issue, not the person of the Secretary of State.
Simon Davey, UK

Railtrack was and is an utterly disastrous creation.. Byers clearly decided to be rid of it at all costs and has paid for his decision with his job. I wish him well for his 6-8 months on the backbenches. Then lets get him back to do a hatchet job on another Tory disaster.
Steve M, UK

I welcomed Byers' attempts to sort out Railtrack, and the other improvements he was trying to make. You cannot improve the railways in 11 months! It is actually impossible. The media just focuses on irrelevances such as Sixsmith and Moore. Do you think the trains will run on time today just because he has gone?
Rob, UK

He survived the BMW/Rover debacle, Jo Moore's email, the 'resignation' of martin Sixsmith and the renationalisation of Railtrack. Then he happens to remark that the function of transport policy should not be to persecute the motorist, and is gone in 48 hours.
Andy, UK

Will Mr. Darling be able to do any better?

Ian Shelmerdine, Cheshire
Perhaps Byers was not solely too blame. It matters not which politician is lumbered with the job of Secretary of State for Transport, what really matters is the desire and conviction of government as a whole, to develop a policy and strategy to sort out the problems that exist on the roads, on the railways and in the air. We have seen politician after politician come to grief on the rocks of the department of transports shores. Will Mr. Darling be able to do any better, or will he be the latest in the long line of scapegoats unable to do what is really necessary?
Ian Shelmerdine, Cheshire

If Tony Blair had any real authority he would have sacked him after the Jo Moore fiasco. Allowing him to resign is the coward's way out. If there has to be criticism of the whole situation it has to be of Blair. When are senior politicians going to have the courage to act in the face of deceit?
R. Rogers, UK

Yes, thank the Lord he's gone. Just like most other Labour ministers, he's full of arrogance and to have stayed this long in the face of minimal public respect demonstrates that. Let's hope they do the same with arrogant Blunkett and arrogant Two Jags Clarke.
Neil Smith, UK

He had to resign because once the British media get their knives into you they will never let go.
John Michael, UK

It was more to save his career than to save the government

Rachael, UK
Will his resignation stop the embarrassment? I doubt it, due to the nature of the job. I agree with Byers' decision to resign but I feel it was more to save his political career than to save the government. After all, most people in the industry seem to agree with the general gist of his policy. I think he has been unfortunate in that the Conservatives have nothing else with which to attack the government.
Rachael, UK

A great shame that he has gone. He was the only transport minister I can remember who had the first clue about the issues in transport. Railtrack, the press, Sixsmith have all got their way. Democracy and the travelling public are the losers.
Ian Bartlett, UK

I notice that he now says that he did make mistakes. Strange, I don't recall him issuing anything other than denials of making any mistakes during his period in power.
J L Hall, UK

He seemed to be completely out of touch with reality and the impossibility of his position

Alistair, UK
Of course Byers had to go with his track record. Frequently he seemed to be completely out of touch with reality and the impossibility of his position. The fact that he has gone now rather than waiting to be quietly dispatched in a summer Cabinet reshuffle does suggest that he made his own decision for once rather that acting as Cabinet fall guy.
Alistair, UK

So, the malicious, vengeful, venomous and sanctimonious with their continuous backbiting, gossip and malevolent criticism have finally got rid of Stephen Byers. I wonder who will be their next victim.
Janet Shaw, England

The media and opposition have finally got their way, Pity the opposition could not get it right in eighteen years of government.

Hurrah, that's the best news all year...!!!
David Ingall, Leicester, England

Judging by many of the above comments, our pathetic populous doesn't deserve a Parliament that debates the real issues of national importance. Let's bring on the next bout of pointless scandal and distraction. After all it keeps them entertained more than fixing the country's problems ever would.
Mark, UK

The man no longer has any credibility

Barrie, England
Of course he should have resigned. The man no longer has any credibility and doesn't know what he's doing. There is another bad side to this too, I believe his resignation was engineered to avoid being sacked and make a future comeback more than a probability.
Barrie, England

The only thing that could possibly be worse than Stephen Byers is the fact that Peter Mandelson could get his old job! Heaven help if that happens!
Steve, England, UK

Peter Mandelson's paid his price, been exonerated from the Hinduja allegations, and by all accounts was a highly able and competent minister - plus he has the trust and ear of the prime minister, and would be perfectly placed within the cabinet to help in the campaign for a Yes vote in any euro referendum.
James, UK

I have no idea why Byers has resigned now. Considering how long he's been an embarrassment to the government, it seems bizarre that he has only now realised the damage he has been doing. Is there something that has gone unreported in the wake of Roy Keane that explains this?
Ian, Scotland

Stability and long-term planning is the only way to solve transport problems

Alex Banks, UK
Great. Another transport secretary has resigned. If only we could have one for a decent period of time, our transport systems might stand a chance of recovering and rebuilding! Stability and long-term planning is the only way to solve transport problems, not an endless in/out rotation of ministers.
Alex Banks, UK

Best thing he's ever done... I hope it starts a trend. For once he's on the right track!!
Gill Chesney-Green, UK

His resignation speech said it all, he only did so because it was the right thing for the Labour government and the Labour Party. No hint of doing it for the good of the country or the transport users he has so badly served. He will no doubt soon be given a job in the Labour party back rooms to help keep this self-serving party in power.
James, England

He should have stayed

Philip, UK
This is a bad day for the railways and all railway passengers. Whatever his faults politically, he's the one who had the guts to make a big decision, do the right thing and get rid of Railtrack. He handled the recent Potters Bar crash admirably (not making any promised that he couldn't keep as Prescott kept doing). He should have stayed.
Philip, UK

Wouldn't it be nice if they all resigned?
John, Greece

But he still hasn't explained how it took from February until this month to discover that Martin Sixsmith had not resigned. As for those who back his handling of RailTrack, you might not be so happy if you had been a shareholder or if part of your pension emanates from this source. Many railway staff were among those who held shares - now they will be out of pocket in more ways than one. No one can tell me exactly what qualifications Byers had for his job (a point that applies to other ministers including Health's Alan Milburn and, of course, John Prescott in any capacity).
Stuart, UK

He was never as bad as the media made him out to be. He wasn't the slickest of operators but at least he had courage to do the right thing and put Railtrack under administration. But who'll replace him now? My money is on Mandelson.
Ahmed, London, UK

So much for democracy

Roz, UK
Glad to see the press and Railtrack shareholders have finally got their own way. So much for democracy.
Roz, UK

Stephen Byers you are the weakest link... goodbye.
Karl Armstrong, Italy

It makes no real difference whether he resigns or not. He is not the only minister who is of no substance, none of them are. His sacking, because that's exactly what it is, will only make way for the return of Mandelson.
Paul, UK

With his record on announcing resignations, who knows, it might be retracted in a few days time! I'll bet that there is a very interesting and damaging news story safely buried deep in the papers tomorrow though as with complete control over the timing of this announcement there must be something that they want to shroud from our attention.
Phillip Holley, UK

It had become impossible for him to do his job, given the incessant criticism

Yes of course resignation was the right thing, not because of his performance as a minister but because it had become impossible for him to do his job, given the incessant criticism from political opponents and the press. He had become a punch bag for all the frustrations of those opposed to the government, who otherwise are failing miserably to land their punches. Previously it was John Prescott and he was moved on. In the near future we'll see another fall guy emerge to carry the can.

I'm not surprised that political apathy is such a major problem at the moment, when we are all too ready to focus on issues rather than personalities. The media and the opposition regularly demand ministerial resignations and pursue personal vendettas. That does more damage to public perception of politics and politicians than it does to the short-term prospects of the government. Railtrack, insensitive personnel, and the doubts surrounding the ten year plan would still have been issues under different ministerial leadership. More people in this country would be able to paint a personality profile of Mr Byers than would be able to give a basic overview of the ten year plan for transport.
Rebecca Keight, UK

This must either mean that he hasn't actually resigned or (horror!) he's telling the truth.
Tony Hoyle, UK

It is a shame that Byers had to resign through media pressure. I don't think he did anything wrong by not sacking Moore who was a civil servant, who answered to her managerial bosses. Also bringing the ailing rail industry into receivership was the best thing he could have done under the circumstances. Politicians are elected to make decisions not the media.

Pushed, jumped? Who cares?! Perhaps this will give the government the chance to have a proper sustainable transport policy that has consideration for public transport - one that the public can actually feel safe using.
Mel, UK

I sincerely hope we never see him again in serious political office. He was abroad while there were two major rail strikes going on. Enough said.
Nick Cox, England

The best decision he has made for a long time

Paul Baker, Birmingham, UK
This is by far the best thing he has done, and the best decision he has made for a long time.
Paul Baker, Birmingham, UK

How someone from Brum can say he should go I don't know, given his help in sorting out a future for Longbridge in 2000. Can any of your correspondents who say he should go explain what he could do about a railway system the government doesn't own? To criticise him for being on holiday when there was a rail strike is to ask for PR stunts. He has no role. One of his achivements was to get Railtrack on the road to non-profit making trust status, and for a small amount fo money. That's about the only positive thing to happen to the railways since the Tories privatised them.
Andy F, UK

He shouldn't have been able to resign, because he should have been sacked ages ago!
Jim, UK

This is a shame for the anti-hunting lobby. Without Byers there will be less need to reopen the debate to distract attention from Labour.
Grant, Reading, UK

Surely it is more than merely coincidental that his resignation comes only hours after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Home Secretary does not have the power to overturn a decision of the parole board - a severe blow for the government's policy on law and order.
Dan, England

Byers showed the public that the government was not going to waste any more taxpayers' money

Sanjay Pancholi, Leicester, UK
Stephen Byers should have stayed. He did the right thing by putting Railtrack into administration. Byers finally showed the public that the government was not going to waste any more of the taxpayers' money on a white elephant.
Sanjay Pancholi, Leicester, UK

This is great news for everyone that uses public transport. I might even have a drink to celebrate.
Chris Gower, London, UK

I think that Stephen Byers has made the right decision in resigning. He has been the figurehead of an ailing transport system for too long now, a system which is incredibly sub-standard. The government's job now is not just to appoint a replacement purely out of necessity, but to think long and hard about the future of public transport in this county, and how to bring it up to the standard which every other developed country in the West already enjoys, and what the people expect.
Paul, UK

The only question is why it has taken so long for this to happen, and why he has been supported for so long by his superior.

He most definitely has made the right decision for everybody concerned. My hope now is that people forget about him and the decisions he has made and start with a clean slate and tackle the problems on the right footing from here on.
Paul Michael Smith, Manchester, England

It will mean nothing to this government until Blair, Blunkett and Straw also resign and let Gordon Brown run the country.
Brian Dickson, England

Yes. He has made New Labour only too transparent. He had to go.
William Battersby, UK

Whatever you may think of Byers, the problem will now be to provide continuity in getting the rail mess sorted out. As a commuter on I experience the lack of coherent long-term action on a daily basis. Whoever replaces Stephen Byers must know the industry and be able to push through realistic, long term and sustainable plans.
Steve, UK

His less then clever actions caught up with him

Talat Basharat, England
I am sorry to see that has Byers resigned, but it had to happen sometime sooner or later as he was becoming a liability and no one would believe his words. His less than clever actions in the past just caught up with him. Good luck to him.
Talat Basharat, England

Byers is right to have gone, it's a pity he didn't do so earlier, but perhaps the government can get on with its programme now and concentrate more on getting its message across. I'll be interested to see what the Lib Dems and Tories do next now that they'll have to find an alternative public enemy figure.
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK

He should have gone months ago. He has distracted the government already and damaged its standing seriously, leading to general questions about both its competence and honesty.
James Baldwin, UK

It is a shame Stephen has had to resign. However, the path is now clear for Peter to return.
John Blackman, UK

No he was not. What has happened is that the press has conducted the latest round of "let's pick off the weakest minister" games, and he's clearly had enough.
Sleban Foulheart, UK

Byers was right to quit. He has shown poor judgement too often to be credible as a cabinet minister.
Martin Drew, UK

Can Blair, Prescott, Straw, Vaz and Cooke now follow? This is the only good example ever set by a member of this Labour government.
Tom, Germany

By resigning, he has taken the easy way out

Sarah Carless, England
He should have been sacked a long time ago. By resigning, he has taken the easy way out and doesn't have to answer any questions now. He should have been made to answer for his mistakes.
Sarah Carless, England

Too right, he should have done the honest thing and gone a long time ago. Good riddance.
Anna Hunt, England

At long last! He was making the government a laughing stock.
B Smith, UK

I wonder what bad news the government is trying to bury today?
Rodger Edwards, UK

Has he really resigned? Or is this a Martin Sixsmith type "resignation"?
Kaps, UK

Is this a tactic to distract attention from our arms negotiations with a nation on the brink of nuclear war?
Richard, UK

Latest stories


Byers resignation

Main players


Was Stephen Byers right to resign?



13895 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |