British defence secretary resigns

June 5, 2009 12:00 am

, LONDON, Jun 5 – British Defence Secretary John Hutton said he was resigning Friday, insisting he was "not deserting" Prime Minister Gordon Brown despite becoming the fourth cabinet minister to quit in a week.

Hutton cited family reasons in saying he was stepping down, though his announcement came hours after Work And Pensions Secretary James Purnell quit, urging Brown to fall on his sword.

"There’s a life beyond politics and I hope with a bit of luck to experience that myself," he told BBC television.

"I’m not deserting Gordon, I’m not deserting my party, I’m certainly not deserting my government. I will be supporting it from the backbenches which is I think a fair and honorable place for me to be now."

His announcement came as Brown reshuffles his government. Hutton will also not stand again as lawmaker for his Barrow and Furness constituency in northwest England.

He could reportedly be replaced in the cabinet by Shaun Woodward, who is currently Northern Ireland Secretary.

Like Purnell, Hutton is seen as a Blairite within the Labour Party — someone who is more aligned with the modernising agenda of former premier Tony Blair than with Brown.

But he insisted he did not agree with Purnell’s calls for Brown to quit and stressed he was "absolutely committed" to supporting Brown.

"There’s nothing else to read into this, this is no big deal," he said.

Hutton has been in Brown’s cabinet since he took over from Blair in 2007 and has been loyal to him since then. He formerly served as Britain’s business secretary and was appointed to defence in 2008.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Communities Secretary Hazel Blears have also indicated they are stepping down.


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