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Last Updated: Friday, 27 June, 2003, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Media 'forced Blair to move reshuffle'
Helen Liddell
Former cabinet minister Liddell criticises Short's resignation
Media speculation made Tony Blair bring forward his "botched" reshuffle, says one of the ministers involved in the changes.

Former Scotland Secretary Helen Liddell, who left the government in the reshuffle, has said the prime minister could have handled the changes better.

Mr Blair has been roundly criticised for the way he moved to abolish the post of lord chancellor without first fully consulting experts and the public.

Ms Liddell also used an interview with BBC News 24's One to One to say that former minister Clare Short failed to raise her full concerns about the Iraq war around the cabinet table.

Handling problems

Ms Short resigned as international development secretary before this month's reshuffle.

The reshuffle saw a new Department of Constitutional Affairs created, with the old Scotland and Wales Offices as part of it.

Ms Liddell acknowledged things could have been done better but argued the new system would work.

Sometimes when a sort of media squall gets up about reshuffles it's destabilising to departments and something has to be done
Helen Liddell

"I've got to be honest and say it wasn't handled in the best possible way and I think probably the prime minister himself acknowledges that," she said.

"His intention initially, I know, had been to wait until July to do the reshuffle, but sometimes when a sort of media squall gets up about reshuffles it's destabilising to departments and something has to be done.

"It's unfortunate it happened like this but I believe it will go on and be quickly sorted out.

"I think a few more weeks might have made things a bit easier. Things could have been bedded in an easier way."

Ms Liddell added: "What's a few weeks? It's not the end of the world."

'Little angst'

Her former cabinet colleague Ms Short has been vocal in her criticism of Mr Blair's Iraq stance.

But Ms Liddell said the ex-minister's interest had been in the humanitarian effects of the Iraq stand-off.

"I have to say, the stories that I read in the newspaper were very different from the cabinet table I sat around," she continued.

"I don't think that we saw the sort of voluble expression of her angst that we've seen over the past few weeks.

"In fact, I can remember on one occasion she was praising our armed forces - rightly - for their skill and their ability to target."

She also criticised the way Ms Short had stayed in the cabinet at the start of the war only to quit later.

"You sit round that cabinet table, you know you've got hard decisions to take," said Ms Liddell.

"If you feel you cannot take those decisions, you walk away, you don't sit and wait for the time that's right for you.

"You have a moral and a political responsibility to take the decision at that time."

The full interview will be shown on BBC News 24's One to One at 2145 on Saturday.




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