MARGARET Beckett, Hazel Blears, Beverley Hughes, Caroline Flint - and, yesterday, Jane Kennedy, a minister of state for the environment, have all departed from Gordon Brown's government in the past week. Kennedy left complaining of bullying, threats, intimidation. It's surprising that a mere minister of state is important enough to be subjected to such treatment , especially on environmental matters. Still, the exit of five women ministers is a far cry from Blair's Babes, the new input of women MPs with whom Tony was photographed in the highdays of New Labour. The Downing Street traffic has not been all one way. Yvette Cooper has been promoted to full ministerial rank, Glenys Kinnock has been brought in as Minister for Europe and Tessa Jowell has returned to full Cabinet status as Olympics minister with other unspecified responsibilities. There would probably have been more sympathy for the departees had they handled themselves with greater dignity. Hazel Blears, perpetrator of one of the most blatant of the second home flipping scams, left most ungraciously despite warm words in writing from the prime minister. Caroline Flint's about turn from expressions of loyalty to a letter of resignation within a day did not acquit herself well ; Margaret Beckett, an old hand, merely observed that she could not do her job properly if she was not a full member of the Cabinet, which was fair enough. While on the subject - has anyone looked at the Conservative front bench recently?
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