BY CHRISTINA WHITE
SPORTS MINISTER Tony Banks is a hot favourite for the chop when Tony Blair announces his first cabinet reshuffle.
The Herald believes that time is running out for gaffe-prone Banks, along with fellow ministers Clare Short and Chris Smith.
The Minister for Sport ran into trouble last week after an "off the cuff" comment in which he likened William Hague to a foetus. Pro-life groups joined Conservatives in condemning the remark as "utterly distasteful".
Mr Banks, speaking at a fringe rally organised by the
Left-wing Tribune newspaper, mocked the Tory defeat on 1 May. He said: "To make matters worse they have elected a foetus as the party leader. I bet a lot of them wish they had not voted against abortion now." His words were greeted with roars oflaughter, including that of Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.
The Labour leadership demanded an immediate apology. Mr Banks replied: "This was a tasteless remark, made off the cuff, which I acknowledge has caused offence for which I fully apologise."
Brendan Gerard of SPUC said: "The minister's comments came as no surprise from someone whose voting record is overwhelmingly pro-abordon. Every member of the Cabinet has voted at least once for abortion up to birth. We hope that if they find his comments offensive, they will reconsider their position." William Hague, he added, has voted consistently pro-life.
Mr Banks also cracked a joke at the expense of Cherie Booth. Describing the moment he was asked if he would like the job of Sports Minister, he said he had replied: "Is the Pope a Catholic?" He added: "I thought that would stand me in very good stead with Cherie."