Blow for Blair as Estelle Morris quits
Estelle Morris, the education secretary, sensationally resigned last night arguing that she was incapable of providing the right strategic management to run a big government department. In an extraordinary confession, she also insisted: "I was not good at dealing with the modern media. I have not done the job as well as I should have done." Ms Morris, the most senior woman in the cabinet, told Tony Blair of her decision to resign on Tuesday lunchtime, and despite pleas from the prime minister, she insisted yesterday evening on going ahead with her decision to quit the cabinet after 18 months. She made the final decision after delivering a speech in Birmingham and discussing the issue with her closest colleagues. In her resignation letter, she said she realised she had come to see herself as ineffective, or not as effective as the prime minister needed.
(Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Mail)
Shock and regret from world of education
The sudden departure of Estelle Morris was greeted with widespread shock and sadness by educationists and teaching union leaders lamenting the loss of a dedicated minister whom they fear will be hard to replace. Sir William Stubbs, sacked by Ms Morris as chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority last month, said she had been "badly advised by her senior civil servants and media advisers". Chris Woodhead, the former head of Ofsted, said he admired Estelle Morris for standing by her promise to resign. He called her decision "courageous".
(Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Times, Independent)
Polished Clarke emerges as top contender
Charles Clarke, the pugnacious chairman of the Labour Party, emerged last night as the frontrunner to succeed Estelle Morris as education secretary. A highly polished media performer, who is one of the few government ministers with the agility to survive an encounter with Jeremy Paxman, he would have none of Ms Morris's diffidence in a crisis. Mr Clarke was tipped last night after government sources made it clear that David Miliband, the highly rated schools minister, would not be promoted yet.
Onerous in-tray at tough department
Estelle Morris's successor will have a seriously weighty in-tray with some huge challenges across all sectors of education. And any hopes by the government that Ms Morris's departure will draw a line under a disastrous two months for education will be dashed by the belated recognition that this is one of the most difficult jobs in government.
Manchester universities agree merger
Manchester's two largest universities have agreed to dissolve both institutions to create a "super-university" that would be one of the biggest in the country with 30,000 full-time students. The two universities, which said the merger was still subject to "satisfactory funding" arrangements, are to pick a new name next year and the institution is expected to open in autumn 2004. Ratification of the decision yesterday by both university councils is expected to come from the two university courts when they meet next month.
(Financial Times, Daily Telegraph)
Cambridge alumni urged to stop gifts over threat of fees
Cambridge graduates have been urged to withhold donations to the university until it promises to rule out huge increases in tuition fees. The president of the students' union has asked them to boycott the university's fundraising campaigns unless dons resist moves to introduce "top-up fees", which could see charges rise to more than £10,000 a year.
Alumnus donates $500,000 stocks to Christ's College
Mike Lynch, founder of Autonomy, the software company, is to give a portfolio of $500,000 (£323,000) worth of his own stock to Christ's College, Cambridge, in a fresh sign that US-style academic funding is spreading to the UK. Christ's will today announce it wants to raise an endowment fund of £15 million to mark its 500th birthday in 2005 - £5 million of which has already been collected in a successful "quiet phase" ahead of the launch.
Scientists call for ban on cod fishing
EU scientists called for a complete ban on cod catches in a desperate effort to preserve stocks. Fishermen's leaders say the measures could spell the death knell for the white fish industry, putting 20,000 jobs at risk and devastating numerous coastal communities. The report by marine scientists from the 19 EU member states will be presented to ministers tomorrow. It recommends a package of measures including a total ban on cod fishing in the North Sea, off the west coast of Scotland and in the Irish sea. Fishing for haddock and whiting could also be curbed because cod can be caught with other species.
(Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Times, Daily Mail)
£20m HRT safety trial abandoned
British research into the long-term safety of hormone replacement therapy was halted yesterday - four months after a similar study in America was abandoned because the risks of HRT to women significantly outweighed the benefits. The £20 million UK study was scrapped after independent scientists said it was unlikely to add to lessons learned in America, where prolonged use of HRT was found to increase the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.
(Independent, Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)
Biggest ever internet attack under investigation
For at least an hour from 9.45pm British time on Monday, the internet's 13 "root server" computers - owned and operated by the US government, universities, private companies and other organisations around the world - were deluged with massive amounts of extra data, creating bottlenecks that prevented legitimate data from reaching its destination. The involvement of FBI cyber-crime agents raised the spectre of terrorism, but the expert consensus was that the attack was far more likely to be the work of conventional hackers.
MPs deluged by wave of hardcore e-mails
Computer systems at Westminster are to be fitted with special filters to stop MPs being bombarded with explicit e-mails. Commons authorities have dismissed suggestions that MPs are being specifically targeted, but the problem has become so acute that they have ordered emergency action.