Tom Watson quits


By DAVID WOODING

LABOUR MP Tom Watson has quit the Shadow Cabinet in the heat of a growing storm over a union plot to seize control of candidate selection.

In his resignation letter to Ed Miliband, he has a dig at “unattributed briefings” by fellow front-benchers.

This story is far from over. Here’s Mr Watson’s resignation letter to the Labour leader.

Dear Ed,

I said that I’d stay with you as general election co-ordinator within the Shadow Cabinet as long as I was useful. I think it would be a good idea for you, and me, if I stood down from the role now.

As you know, I offered my resignation on Tuesday and you asked me to reconsider. I’ve thought about it and still feel it is better for you and the future unity of the party that I go now. There are some who have not forgiven me for resigning in 2006. I fully accept the consequences of that decision and genuinely hope my departure allows the party to move on.

Yet it’s not the unattributed shadow cabinet briefings around the mess in Falkirk that has convinced me that the arrangement has run its course (though they don’t help). I believe that the report should be published – in full – and the whole truth told as soon as possible so that the record can be made clear. I’ve still not seen the report but believe there are an awful lot of spurious suppositions being written.

I wish to use the backbenches to speak out in areas of personal interest: open government and the surveillance state, the digital economy, drones and the future of conflict, the child abuse inquiries, the aftermath of the Murdoch scandal and grass roots responses to austerity.

Having resigned a couple of times before, I know how puckish lobby hacks might choose to misconstrue the departure. So to make it harder for them let me say this: I’m proud of your Buddha-like qualities of patience, deep thought, compassion and resolve. I remain your loyal servant. I’ll always be on hand to help you if you need me. I just don’t think you need me in the Shadow Cabinet any more. After nearly thirty years of this, I feel like I’ve seen the merry-go-round turn too many times. Whereas the Shadow Cabinet’s for people who still want to get dizzy.

You have it in you to be an outstanding Labour Prime Minister. The road ahead is always rocky but I will be with you all of the way, cheering you on from the backbenches. You’re my friend and leader, and I’m going to do all I can to make sure you win in 2015.

Welcome to GB…I’m GB!

By DAVID WOODING

DAVID Cameron’s glamorous aide Gabby Bertin turned strike-buster today as she helped man Britain’s borders at Heathrow.

Political hacks feared she had joined the walk-out by civil servants when she failed to take her usual seat in the Commons gallery for PM’s questions.

But it later emerged his Press Secretary was among the army of volunteers checking passports and running immigration controls at the country’s top airport.

Gabby Bertin with Mr Cameron.

Dark-haired Gabby, 32, a popular figure in Westminster, would no doubt grant a welcoming smile to those arriving in the UK for the first time.
But journalists can vouch she is also a tough cookie who would have no truck with anyone who steps out of line.

During her single shift, she had cause to quiz one arriving passenger over her travel documents.

A colleague revealed: “She pressed this woman quite closely because she felt her passport didn’t pass the Bertin test.”

Gabby Bertin – affectionately known as “Berters” in the lobby – joined Tory campaign HQ straight from university and has worked for Mr Cameron since his leadership campaign in 2005.

She has worked for David Cameron since his leadership campaign in 2005 and has since been described as one of the most powerful women in Whitehall.

Number 10 confirmed “a handful” of staff working directly for the PM were among 125,000 civil servants who joined the strike over pensions.

Low risk

Mr Cameron asked members of his policy unit to do their bit to keep Britain’s gateway open during the 24-hour stoppage.

Later there were reports that Gabby had been spotted manning a passport control desk at Terminal One. She was given two days’ training in border security last week and learned how to check passports of passengers arriving on “low risk” flights.

Mr Cameron told the Commons the signs were that contingency measures were minimising the impact of the strike and branded the action a “damp squib”.

Passengers arriving told how they expected long queues but waltzed through the airport in minutes.
It’s not clear how senior a role Gabby was given but she’s renowned for her calm efficiency. Downing Street said it was unlikely she would accept a shift payment even if she was offered it.

Gabby’s used to working in the top-flight – and is definitely here for the long haul.