Birmingham MP Clare Short quit as a Labour Party MP today to campaign for a hung Parliament to replace Tony Blair’s "arrogant, error-prone" Government.
The MP for Ladywood resigned the party whip and announced she would sit as an independent in the Commons until she steps down altogether after the next general election. In her resignation letter - seen by the media before party chiefs, to their fury - she said she wanted to be free to air her concerns.
Her move comes shortly after she had narrowly escaped being expelled from the Labour Party for urging voters to abandon the Government to force change. She announced she was stepping down at the next election with a vicious swipe at Tony Blair, saying she was "profoundly ashamed" of the Government. She quit as International Development Secretary in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war over her opposition to the invasion.
Chief Whip Jacqui Smith, MP for Redditch, said it was "a shame" and attacked Ms Short for telling the media first.
"Many people remember her contributions to the Labour Party and Government and it is a shame that, following my reprimand to her for advocating the defeat of her Labour colleagues at the next election and several recent warnings about her lack of attendance, she has decided to resign the Labour Whip," Ms Smith said.
"It is unfortunate she decided to announce this through a leak to the media rather than to her constituency Labour Party."
The chairman of the Ladywood constituency, Malcolm Speak, said he was "not altogether surprised" at the decision. But he pointed out that Ms Short had publicly supported "much of what the Government is doing".
>> See Saturday's Birmingham Post to read how the crisis unfolded, what Clare Short's constituents think and the full story.