'TORIES PRAISE BECKETT'

Southern Daily Echo – 12 July 1999

New Forest Tory MPs Desmond Swayne and Julian Lewis praised a Cabinet Minister and told her they hope she carries on in her job. The pair commended Margaret Beckett, Leader of the House of Commons, who has been the target of speculation that she will be sacked.

Their comments came as Mrs Beckett, who was blamed for Labour’s defeat in the European elections after she led the Party’s campaign, gave her weekly statement to MPs on future parliamentary business.

Mr Swayne, MP for New Forest West, told her many Conservative MPs felt she and her deputy, Paddy Tipping, did not deserve to be victims in the expected ministerial reshuffle.

Mrs Beckett thanked him but said:

“None of us gets too excited about such stories – the silly season seems to have started early.”

Dr Lewis, MP for New Forest East, said:

“There are many on the Conservative benches who appreciate the professional, competent and courteous way in which she discharges her duties.”

He told Mrs Beckett he sincerely hoped she was not sacked like David Clark, formerly the Minister for the Cabinet Office, who was subjected to similar sniping in the press beforehand.

Afterwards, Dr Lewis said:

“It shows that someone like Margaret Beckett can win the respect of people with very different views from her own out of sheer professionalism and sense of fair play.”

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[NOTE: This episode was introduced, in Radio 4’s “Today in Parliament” as follows:

“Good news and bad news for Margaret Beckett: the good news is that three MPs say she is doing a good job and shouldn’t be sacked; the bad news is that they are all Tories!” 

The third MP was John Bercow. Margaret Beckett kept her job and was later appointed Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and, eventually, Foreign Secretary.]