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     Watson and Mahmood first to resign in leadership protest  <<back  next>>

Defence minister Tom Watson has resigned from the government in protest at Tony Blair's continued premiership.

Downing Street responding by announcing that Derek Twigg will move from the Department of Transport to replace Watson, with Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South, joining the government to replace Twigg as transport minister.

Following the announcement it emerged that Khalid Mahmood, parliamentary private secretary to police minister Tony McNulty, has also resigned in protest.

Earlier, Watson said it was not "in the interest of either the party or the country" for the prime minister to remain in office.

Watson signed a letter earlier in the week calling for Blair to quit sooner rather than later and, after discussing it with the chief whip, chose to resign rather than remove his name from it.

He was scheduled to have a meeting in Number 10 later on Wednesday in which the matter was expected to be discussed and would probably have seen him sacked.

"It is with the greatest sadness that I have to say that I no longer believe that your remaining in office is in the interest of either the party or the country," Watson said in his resignation letter to the prime minister.

"How and why this situation has arisen no longer matters.

"I share the view of the overwhelming majority of the party and the country that the only way the party and the government can renew itself in office is urgently to renew its leadership."

Elected in 2001, he has served in government since 2004, first as an assistant government whip before being promoted within the Whips' Office and then to being minister for veterans' affairs earlier this year.

Before that he served as a parliamentary aide to paymaster general Dawn Primarolo in the Treasury.

6 September 2006

 Last updated: 06/09/2006 14:10:00

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