» Friday, February 27, 2004

Clare Short

Asked if any examination had been undertaken to decide whether Clare Short had breached the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and whether any disciplinary action would be taken against her, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it was not a matter for him. Nor would it be appropriate for him to know in any event on the former. The Prime Minister was making a speech in Scotland this afternoon and he was focussing on his attention on that, as you would expect. As he understood it, the Prime Minister would not refer to the matter, but would give the speech he had always intended to deliver. Asked if he was indicating that the Prime Minister considered the matter to be closed, the PMOS repeated that the Prime Minister was focussing on his speech today. Journalists should speak to the Labour Party about it.

Asked if the Prime Minister had now reflected on what disciplinary action might be taken against Ms Short, as he had said he would do yesterday, the PMOS repeated that the Prime Minister was making a speech in Scotland this afternoon. That was what where he was focussing his attention. Should there be any developments on any issue – and that was not a signal or a hint that anything was going to happen – journalists would obviously be informed.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to Kofi Annan or any of the UN Secretary General’s staff, the PMOS said no. Asked if there were any plans for him to do so, the PMOS said that the UK’s Ambassador to the UN, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, had spoken to Kofi Annan yesterday, as journalists knew. Asked why he was confirming the conversation when his colleague had said yesterday that it wasn’t Downing Street’s policy to do so, the PMOS said that, as a matter of routine, we never briefed on conversations betweens diplomats and members of other Governments or organisations such as the UN, just as we didn’t necessarily brief on conversations between Ministers and their foreign counterparts. Given the circumstances yesterday, however, we were confirming the conversation between the Ambassador and the UN Secretary General. Asked if the description of the conversation as ‘apologetic’ by a UN spokesman was accurate, the PMOS said that while he had confirmed that the conversation had taken place, he had no intention of briefing on its tone or content in any shape or form. The Prime Minister had underlined in his monthly press conference yesterday the very high regard in which he held the UN Secretary General. Asked if the Prime Minister had written to Kofi Annan or communicated with him by any other means, such as e-mail, the PMOS said no. The UK Ambassador to the UN had spoken with him, as was the more traditional way of doing these things. Put to him that the Prime Minister considered Kofi Annan to be a friend and that surely he would have wanted to speak to him directly about what had happened, the PMOS agreed that the Prime Minister and Dr Annan had a very good relationship and said that nothing had changed. He repeated that the UK Ambassador to the UN had spoken to the UN Secretary General yesterday.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. There’s no way the Labour party will make a martyr of her by doing something so obvious as kicking her out of the party.

    Rather I think they’ll be more subtle over time.

    see <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3494090.stm">http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3494090.stm</a&gt;

    Comment by Tom Loosemore — 29 Feb 2004 on 8:35 pm | Link
  2. Interesting bit in this Guardian story, showing that Labour would do badly by punishing her.

    "The prime minister is understood to want to see his former cabinet minister punished, but is wary of turning her into a martyr."

    <a href="http://politics.guardian.co.uk/whitehall/story/0,9061,1159275,00.html">http://politics.guardian.co.uk/whitehall/story/0,9061,1159275,00.html</a&gt;

    Comment by Francis Irving — 1 Mar 2004 on 3:19 am | Link
  3. It’s not a matter for the Prime Minister to decide, if Clare Short is going to be prosecuted: there is a separation of the government and the judiciary. It’s up to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide, surely?

    Put it another way: if the CPS want to prosecute under the Official Secrets Act, and No.10 stopped them from doing so for political reasons it would be arguably worse than the breach itself.

    Comment by Ben Hammersley — 1 Mar 2004 on 6:51 am | Link
  4. Prosecutions under the Act require the consent of the Attorney General:
    <a href="http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1989/Ukpga_19890006_en_2.htm#mdiv9">http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1989/Ukpga_19890006_en_2.htm#mdiv9</a&gt;
    but I’m not sure whether this means the AG acting in their political or legal capacity. If the former, then Blair certainly has a part in the decision, which makes sense.

    Comment by Chris Lightfoot — 1 Mar 2004 on 9:05 am | Link
  5. My understanding was that it was the AG deciding whether a prosecution would be "in the public interest", given that prosecutions under the OSA are likely to involve evidence that may be damaging to the interests of the UK (or, at the very least, expose operational information about our Intelligence Services).

    From that, I’d guess it’s the AG acting in a political r&ocirc;le, not just a legal one. Either way, though, it’s somewhat implausible that the PM’s feelings on the matter wouldn’t be taken into account in such a decision, surely?&nbsp; :o)

    Comment by Owen Blacker — 1 Mar 2004 on 2:10 pm | Link
  6. Ah, OK. That makes sense.

    Comment by Chris Lightfoot — 1 Mar 2004 on 3:33 pm | Link
  7. I notice with interest that one of the considerations as to whether to prosecute Clare Short or not is to see if it is in the publc interest to do so. Should that not read in the interest of the Prime Minister.

    Comment by Mike Gunnell — 5 Mar 2004 on 10:09 am | Link
  8. She and all those who resigned before her – did they send any message to Blair? No! Mugabee shouldn’t be blamed then.

    Comment by viz — 14 Nov 2006 on 1:02 pm | Link

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Post a public comment

(You must give an email address, but it will not be displayed to the public.)
(You may give your website, and it will be displayed to the public.)


This is not a way of contacting the Prime Minister. If you would like to contact the Prime Minister, go to the 10 Downing Street official site.

Privacy note: Shortly after posting, your name and comment will be displayed on the site. This means that people searching for your name on the Internet will be able to find and read your comment.

Downing Street Says...

The unofficial site which lets you comment on the UK Prime Minister's official briefings. About us...


February 2004
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Jan   Mar »

Supported by


Disruptive Proactivity

Recent Briefings



Syndicate (RSS/XML)



Contact Sam Smith.

This site is powered by WordPress. Theme by Jag Singh