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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 February, 2004, 16:16 GMT
Q&A: Labour rebel Clare Short
Tony Blair and Clare Short
Clare Short told a newspaper Tony Blair should stand down
The government is under growing pressure over the legal position of the war on Iraq and claims by former Cabinet minister Clare Short that the UK spied on UN General Secretary Kofi Annan.

BBC political correspondent Carole Walker looks at the government's reaction.

Q. Why is Clare Short in trouble with her party?

Not for the first time she has said - this time in a newspaper article - that she believes Tony Blair should stand down.

Those sort of comments have provoked a great deal of anger at the highest levels of the Labour Party.

Q. Will the Labour Party take any action against Ms Short for her damaging claims?

Unlikely. The thinking is to take some sort of moves within the party against her - perhaps remove the party whip or expel her altogether - would be counterproductive.

There would be the risk, as Party Chairman Ian McCartney said, of making her a martyr.

It would undoubtedly give her a further platform to continue her criticism of Tony Blair and more interest in what she had to say

Q. But what about claims that she should be challenged for breaking the Official Secrets Act?

They have to make a choice. Either they do decide to prosecute her under the Official Secrets Act which would lead to a potentially explosive trial with Clare Short in court every day, able to talk about all sorts of different things that she may have seen or heard while she was in government.

But if they don't prosecute her then the signal goes out that ministers can leave office and carry on and talk about the confidential things that they saw and heard with impunity.

That is the dilemma the government faces.

Q. The government says it is not going to publish the legal advice behind going to war. Is that the end of the matter?

The government seems pretty determined to stick to its guns. The reason is that if they did that, all kinds of legal advice given to ministers could be subjected to the same kind of pressure. They feel that the precedent that it would set if they did publish it would be very damaging indeed.

But it's not going to stop the questions.


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