Premier slams rogue MP over 'irresponsible' bugging claims
Clare Short was told to shut up yesterday after appalling the Government with her claim that British spies bugged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Barely able to conceal his fury, Tony Blair called her "totally irresponsible" and accused her of undermining security. He warned he would "reflect" on her future.
The ex-Cabinet minister could now be stripped of the Labour whip, kicked off the Privy Council and even be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. But last night Ms Short was defiant. She said: "Either the PM has to say it's true, which he doesn't want to say.
"Or he's got to say it's not true, and he'd be telling a lie. Or he's got to say something pompous about security."
Ms Short astonished MPs by accusing the security forces of breaking international law in the run-up to the war on Iraq.
She told Radio 4: "These things are done. In the case of Kofi Annan's office, it's been done for some time.
"I know. I've seen transcripts of Kofi's conversations. I've had conversations with Kofi, thinking 'Oh dear, there'll be a transcript of this'." Asked if British spies were involved, she said: "Yes, absolutely."
At his monthly No 10 news conference Mr Blair refused to deny Ms Short's allegations, while stressing that was not an indication they were true.
Then he laid into the rogue MP who has been a constant critic since she quit Cabinet over Iraq.
He declared: "Our security services, particularly today, perform a vital task. Many work in circumstances of great danger. Those who attack their work undermine security. It's wrong.
"We're going to be in a dangerous situation if people feel they can spill out details of operations, whether false or true, and get away with it."
Asked if Ms Short should remain a Labour MP, Mr Blair said: "These are issues I'll have to reflect upon. I regard what she said as totally irresponsible."
Later Ms Short, who said she was on a "journey of conscience", ridiculed Mr Blair's claim she had put lives at risk. She said: "There's no danger to anyone in making this public." Asked about the threat of being disciplined, she added: "I'm not trembling in my shoes. I've nothing to lose."
Britain's spying shame