Scorned "Blair babes" turn against Britain's Brown

Thu Jun 4, 2009 9:38am EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - They were dubbed the "Blair Babes" -- the 101 Labour women lawmakers elected when Tony Blair came to power in Britain in 1997 -- who would transform gender imbalances in the British parliament.

But with three female ministers quitting Prime Minister Gordon Brown's already limping government as he faces an expected drubbing in local and European elections on Thursday, women at the top of British politics are now being accused of staging the "revenge of the sisterhood.

It is an accusation they firmly reject: Jacqui Smith, Britain's first female interior minister, insisted "there is no conspiracy here" as she confirmed her intention to quit.

But political commentators struggled to see this week's resignations of Smith, communities minister Hazel Blears, children's minister Beverly Hughes, along with a decision by former health secretary Patricia Hewitt to step down at the next election, as anything else.

The right-leaning Daily Mail tabloid ran banner headlines warning that a new sinister team of WAGs -- a term devised for wives and girlfriends of super-rich soccer stars -- had emerged from the corridors of parliament's Palace of Westminster.

The "Women Against Gordon" had been gathering, it said, for all-female political dinners and hatching "plots" to turn against Brown if he failed to promote more women.

In the Times, political commentator Anne Thompson, warned "Hell hath no fury like the women scorned."

She said senior Labour women who "have felt briefed against and bullied for two years" were fighting back.   Continued...

<p>Britain's outgoing Home Secretary (interior minister) Jacqui Smith walks through Westminster in central London June 3, 2009. Smith confirmed on Wednesday that she will resign from Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government at a reshuffle expected in the next few days. REUTERS/ Eddie Keogh</p>