UK interior minister to quit

LONDON (AFP) - British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is to stand down in a cabinet reshuffle by embattled Prime Minister Gordon Brown, expected within days, reports said Tuesday. Smith will resign as part of a ministerial shake-up which is also expected to see finance minister Alistair Darling replaced, according to the BBC and Sky News television. Brown, who must call a general election within a year, is under intense pressure amid an expenses row which has rocked parliament and led to a string of resignation announcements by lawmakers. The reshuffle is widely expected to take place in the wake of Thursdays local and European Parliament elections, either on Friday or early next week. Polls indicate that Browns governing Labour Party faces an electoral bloodbath. Ministers tipped for promotion include schools minister Ed Balls, a long-time loyal aide of Brown, who could succeed Darling as chancellor of the exchequer, and business minister Peter Mandelson, who could succeed Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Smith was one of the first frontline politicians embarrassed by the recent leaks of information about lawmakers expenses claims, which revealed that she had claimed for two adult movies viewed by her husband. Reports suggest she told Brown two months ago that she planned to step down at the next reshuffle, according to the BBC, which said she nevertheless plans to stand for re-election as a member of parliament. In the latest of weeks of revelations about lawmakers expenses, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Darling claimed on two properties at the same time-a breach of parliamentary rules. On Monday, Darling apologised for a mistake over his expenses claims and pledged to repay 350 pounds Fuelling speculation that he will be demoted, Darling said it was up to Brown to decide his future role. Brown, who has repeatedly voiced confidence in Darling, declined Monday to confirm whether he would remain in his job. I am not going to make any predictions about anything that is going to happen in the next week, he said.

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