Clare Short, demoted to Labour spokeswoman on overseas development, was at her challenging best again yesterday. Would anyone let their daughters go into politics, she asked.
Ms Short launched an attack on the "manoeuvres and dishonesty" of men in politics after she had been shuffled downward in Tony Blair's new Shadow Cabinet. She said she had thought politics was "the highest level of public service". But now, "if I had a daughter, I would advise her not to go into politics. It is just too nasty and hurtful".
In response to criticism from Mr Blair that speaking her mind could cost Labour votes, she added: "I have always thought it important to stand up for what is right and to speak the truth. These things are of value - win or lose."
Ms Short's opinions about daughters appeared to be shared by Jack Cunningham, Labour spokesman for National Heritage. He said he had already advised his two daughters not to go into politics: "Politics is often tough and difficult, we know that, and sometimes it is nasty."
However, Tessa Jowell, Labour's spokeswoman for women, who has a 15- year-old daughter, took a different view. "If she did decide to go into politics I would encourage her," she said. "How could I not after I've campaigned so much to have women in Parliament?"
Sir David Mitchell, the Conservative MP for Hampshire North West who has a 37-year-old married daughter, believes politics ought not to be treated as a career. "People who go into politics should have a calling. This sense of purpose overrides the disappointments. If my daughter had wanted to go into politics, I would have made sure she realised this," he said.
Sir David's son, Social Security Minister, Andrew Mitchell, said if any of his young daughters went into politics, he would make sure they got a balanced view. "I would seek to persuade her that politics is an honourable profession and then send her off to see Clare for her advice. Clare says what she thinks and doesn't talk in New Labour soundbites, which are all about what the electorate want to hear. We need more people like her in the House."
Ms Short could not be contacted yesterday. A message on her answering machine in Birmingham said: "You ought to know that I'm not interested in doing any interviews."
John Prescott, deputy Labour leader, offered his support to her, making a point of saying that in her new job she would still be "dealing with a programme of getting people back to work". …