Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Sunday, 28 September 2008 14:32 UK

Kelly leak a mistake, says Hoon

Geoff Hoon and Ruth Kelly
Geoff Hoon praised Ruth Kelly

The way the news of the resignation of Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly emerged was a "serious mistake", Chief Whip Geoff Hoon has said.

The original leak was probably not deliberate but it had not helped the government, Mr Hoon told Sky News.

Stories had been circulating around the Labour Party conference before the announcement early on Wednesday.

The news drew attention away from Prime Minister Gordon Brown's conference speech the previous day.

"I don't think anyone could have been happy about that situation, least of all Ruth Kelly. I thought she handled it with commendable dignity," said Mr Hoon.

Whoever was responsible did make a serious mistake
Geoff Hoon

"I thought that whoever was responsible for that particular piece of briefing acted irresponsibly and not in the best interests of the government. Therefore I certainly regret it.

"I doubt actually, given the circumstances, that it was done deliberately. I think this kind of late night gossiping is a feature, unfortunately, of party conferences.

"What I do say is that whoever was responsible did make a serious mistake and that has not helped the government."

Ms Kelly said she was leaving to spend more time with her family.

But the news of her departure put the focus back on to Mr Brown's leadership, amid reports that she was unhappy with the prime minister and had acted before being moved in a cabinet reshuffle.

Tricky by-election

The way it was all handled led to former deputy prime minister John Prescott urging ministers to stop "yacking" to journalists.

Ms Kelly herself said she had doubts about the way it came out but Downing Street denied it was behind the news, insisting it "leaked out".

Mr Brown accepted Ms Kelly's decision to leave in May but asked her to remain in the cabinet until the reshuffle, which could take place in the coming week.

In his interview with Sky News, Mr Hoon refused to be drawn on reports Mr Brown could now delay his reshuffle because vulnerable ministers could resign.

Mr Hoon also strongly played down suggestions he was about to move to Brussels as Britain's next EU Commissioner.

If that was to happen, it would leave Labour with another difficult by-election, in Mr Hoon's Ashfield constituency in Nottinghamshire.


SEE ALSO
Kelly 'frustrated' over departure
26 Sep 08 |  UK Politics
Kelly defends decision to leave
24 Sep 08 |  UK Politics
Kelly bids a fond farewell
24 Sep 08 |  UK Politics

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