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Blair Reshuffling Cabinet after Heavy Local Election Losses


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has begun reshuffling his cabinet after his Labor Party suffered heavy losses in local elections Thursday.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was demoted and replaced by Environment Minister Margaret Beckett.

Mr. Blair removed Charles Clarke from the post of home secretary. That job now goes to Defense Minister John Reid.

Senior Treasury Ministry official Des Brown takes over the defense portfolio and House of Commons leader Geoff Hoon becomes minister for Europe.

Many saw the vote for more than 43,00 town and city council seats throughout England as a referendum on Mr. Blair. Early returns show Labor lost at least 251 seats, while the main opposition Conservatives gained at least 249.

The Labor Party is reeling from scandals and charges of incompetence, including the accidental release of more than one thousand foreign prisoners who had faced deportation.

Political observers say Labor's poor election showing could force Mr. Blair to name a date for leaving office.

First elected in 1997, Prime Minister Blair has already said he will not seek a fourth term. Britain's next general election is set for no later than May, 2010.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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