Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Charles still Very Angry

I've just listened to Charles Clarke in On the Ropes and it seems obvious to me that he's still seething. Seething at being sacked and seething at being rubbished by John Reid; I'd guess he'd ideally like to point those guns he's holding in the picture at the Glaswegian hardman. I've always been impressed by Clark, ever since I saw him at a conference at Salford University, when president of the NUS. Though not quite the Fergus the Bogeyman in appearance back then, he was still a heavily built young man. This is perhaps the smallest of indications but he suddenly stopped talking to the bevy of eager faces who had been lionizing him and led them, like the Pied Piper, to the dance floor where he surprisingly threw his ample form into pretty convincing boogie moves. That requires quite a bit of confidence I'd say.

And Clark has always been blessed with loads of it. Son of a quite famous Whitehall mandarin, Sir Otto Clark, and educated privately at Highgate School, he was destined to do well if not pride himself on his administrative abilities. Entering the House in 1997, in no time at all Kinnock's former Chief of Staff was given junior office in the Home Office and by 2001 was in the Cabinet. There is no reason at all to doubt he considered contesting the leadership when Tony steps down. Then came, for such a proud and able man, the angst making allegations of incompetence over the foreign prisoners, agonisingly compounded as they were, by his successor's jibe about a Home Office being 'not fit for purpose'. Rubbishing one's predecessor is a well used ploy by incoming politicians as the 'what a mess they've left' provides an alibi if things do not go so well early on. Blunkett did the same thing in relation to Jack Straw remember. But sitting uncharacteristically on the backbench fringes Clark has been boiling and has decided to let Reid feel some of his pent up ire.

Naturally, his interviews have been conducted in well modulated tones- this is a class politician- but the hurt sustained seeps through the affectations of loyalty and friendship. He believes he was engaged in sorting out the Home Office and that Tony was wrong to move him; the fact that he was apparently destined for the Foreign Office before the prisoner scandal, must make things so much worse. Reid received more serious treatment than Tony though even he was told he must 'recover leadership and authority' and cast doubt as to whether this was possible. I noticed he avoided any direct endorsement of Gordon Brown, let alone expression of warmth, so maybe his only hope of returning to office lies in Blair (who allegedly was in tears when sacking his Home Secretary) 'playing it long' until 2008 and bringing him back for a spell before Gordon inherits the mantle and creates a cabinet in his own image. Politics can be a merciless activity but, for me at least, more entertaining as a spectator sport than most of the soccer we've seen so far.

Hmm, Clarke sounds bitter and rightly so.
Bitter, yes. He needed to settle the score, as he saw it. But the timing of this outbirst indicates that he is attempting to limit the damage to the Labour Party, and Blair in particular.
Articles in Times today shed interesting light on the affair, especially John Kampfner's.
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