“anyone but Gordon”?

The political intrigue within the Labour government, and who will lead it, continues. One of the 17 MPs who signed the letter calling for Tony Blair to step down, junior Defence Minister, Tom Watson – described as “a Blair loyalist, who has served as a government whip and was expected to rise through the ministerial ranks under the prime minister.” – has resigned. This comes as the Sun, favoured leaking-place of the PM, announced May 29th 31st as The Date.. as noted here by Mick.. Not soon enough for Gordon, according to the Guardian.. Nick Robinson had some valid criticism of that date this morning. Updated. Again. And Again. Once moreThe text of Watson’s resignation letter is available here

As you know, I had a conversation with the Chief Whip last night, in which she asked me to withdraw my support from the 2001 intake’s letter calling on you to stand down, or my position would be untenable as a government minister.

I have reflected on this overnight.

I cannot withdraw my name, and therefore I accept her judgement.

I do not believe that statements so far give us the clarity necessary to progress over the next year.

Nor do I believe that newspaper reports of potential dates which may have appeared since I signed the 2001 intake’s letter can provide the clarity the party and the country so desperately need.

It is with the greatest regret, therefore, that I must leave the Government.

Yours ever,

Tom Watson MP
West Bromwich East

Meanwhile Tony Blair is being quoted as saying that Watson had been “disloyal, discourteous and wrong” and he would have been sacked for the letter anyway.. and some reports are suggesting that Watson would have consulted Gordon Brown before making any decision to resign..

Update Another MP who signed that letter has resigned from a government post.

Khalid Mahmood quits as parliamentary private secretary over Blair leadership

More Four Five other junior members of government have resigned from their posts bringing the current number of resignations to 6 7…

The four are Wayne David PPS (Rt Hon Adam Ingram, Minister of State), Ministry of Defence (since 10 Nov 2005), Ian Lucas PPS (Bill Rammell, Minister of State), Department for Education and Skills (since 10 Nov 2005), Mark Tami PPS (Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo, Paymaster General), HM Treasury (since 10 Nov 2005) and David Wright PPS (Rt Hon John Hutton, Secretary of State), Department for Work and Pensions (since 8 May 2006). Update and Chris Mole

and Tony Blair’s statement on the resignation of Tom Watson…

Mr Blair said in a statement to the Press Association: “I have heard from the media that Tom Watson has resigned.

“I had been intending to dismiss him but wanted to extend to him the courtesy of speaking to him first.

“Had he come to me privately and expressed his view about the leadership, that would have been one thing.

“But to sign a round robin letter which was then leaked to the press was disloyal, discourteous and wrong.

“It would therefore have been impossible for him to remain in Government.”

No mention of the meeting with the Chief Whip… and Clare Short on Tom Watson’s resignation..

“If that worm has turned, then it`s virtually over,” she told BBC2`s Newsnight.

Update The Guardian reports that No 10 says May departure date is speculation… of course it is…

Final Update Press Association report that..

Prime Minister Tony Blair will cave in to demands from rebel Labour MPs to set a timetable for his departure – announcing on Thursday that he will quit within a year.
Senior sources within No 10 confirmed to the Press Association that Mr Blair felt he now had to give clarity to his party and the country about his intentions.

But none were prepared to go on the record confirming the Prime Minister’s intentions after a day of high drama.

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