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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 09:37 GMT
Short's career agony

By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

Clare Short has brought a whole new meaning to the word "agonising".

First, the notoriously volcanic minister agonised over her position on the war.

Short has executed breathtaking U turn
She decided she was against it without a second UN resolution.

Then she agonised over whether she should declare her intention of resigning if the prime minister went to war without that resolution.

She decided she should, and went on to do so unequivocally and very publicly.

She even spiced it up with an extraordinary personal attack on the prime minister for his recklessness. That alone would normally have been the end of her career.

Finally she spent a presumably sleepless night agonising over whether she should execute one of the most breathtaking about turns in recent political history and stay in the government. She did.

Busted flush?

Some say she did it because she wants to be involved in the "caring" bit of this war - rebuilding a country that has been devastated by US and UK action.

Others suggest that Chancellor Gordon Brown urged her to stay because he cannot afford to lose yet another of his gang from the cabinet.

Whatever her motives she runs the risk of being seen by some as a busted flush.

She has lost a huge amount of her credibility with backbenchers, even those who were once her greatest supporters.

Even if she becomes a minister in a Gordon Brown-led party - and that is still in the realm of fantasy politics - she will have no discernible constituency.

No guarantees

She will never again be trusted to take rational decisions and then stick to them.

Her agonising stands alongside Robin Cook's masterly resignation which left him with his credibility, integrity and standing vastly enhanced.

And, of course, there are never any guarantees or even any gratitude in politics.

A victorious and, as a result, all-powerful Tony Blair could still dump her once this is all over and done with.

The astonishment at his refusal to sack her over her original outburst has now turned into admiration at the way he has completely neutralised her as a political force.

Clare Short MP, International Development Secretary
"Saddam Hussein is defying the UN and people are suffering"

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