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Blair Reshuffles Cabinet After Election Losses

  • Michael Drudge

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has overhauled his cabinet after his ruling Labor Party suffered big losses in local elections across England.

Mr. Blair's government is facing one of its biggest challenges in the aftermath of local elections that saw a surge in support for the opposition Conservative Party.

The Treasury chief and heir apparent to the prime minister, Gordon Brown, has told British radio the elections are a wake up call for the scandal-shaken Labor Party to renew itself and regain public trust.

"I think there is always a danger when a party has been in power for nine years, and this is the warning shot that we have got to address," said Brown.

Prime Minister Blair began reshuffling his cabinet just hours after the elections results came in, removing his ministers for law-and-order, defense and foreign affairs.

The first to go was Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who was battered by recent revelations that his department had freed more than a 1,000 foreign convicts who should have faced deportation hearings.

Clarke says he is returning to a back-bench seat in the House of Commons.

"The prime minister, as is his right and responsibility, has made the judgment that my continued occupation of the post of home secretary is likely to stand in the way of the continued reforms which remain necessary," he said. "I do not think it would be appropriate to remain in government in these circumstances."

The new home secretary is John Reid, who had been defense minister. Des Brown is replacing Reid in that job.

In the other major change, Jack Straw has been demoted from foreign secretary to leader of the House of Commons. The new Foreign Secretary is Margaret Beckett.

The Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, has scoffed at the cabinet shakeup.

"I don't think this reshuffle will be enough," he said. "What we need in this country is not a reshuffle of the government; we need a replacement to the government."

The local elections saw the Conservatives' share of the vote rise to 40 percent, its best performance since 1992. Labor, and Britain's third party, the Liberal Democrats, each took about one quarter of the votes.

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