[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 19:50 GMT
Blair says MPs are out of touch
Tony Blair

Tony Blair has accused some MPs of being out of touch with the public and of failing to face the terror threat.

Mr Blair met his Cabinet after a vote on anti-terror plans brought his first Commons defeat as prime minister.

He told ministers there was a "worrying gap between parts of Parliament and the reality of the terrorist threat and public opinion".

MPs on Wednesday rejected plans to allow police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge.

The plans were defeated by 31 votes, with 49 Labour MPs rebelling against the government.

If this happens to health and education then there will be hell to pay
Paul Farrelly
Labour MP

The Commons instead backed a compromise proposal to extend the detention time limit from the current 14 days to 28 days.

The prime minister's official spokesman said the Cabinet was disappointed but united in believing it had been right to hold the vote.

The spokesman said Mr Blair had told ministers that police and security service had given him a "sobering" security assessment which had reinforced his view.

Pressing ahead?

Downing Street is signalling that Mr Blair wants to push ahead with his reform agenda despite warnings from some of his backbenchers.

Asked if the prime minister was ready to change his plans on other policies, the spokesman replied: "The Cabinet believe their manifesto commitments."

Mr Blair says his authority is intact despite losing the vote over a key part of his anti-terror plans.

90 days' detention time limit: Defeated by 322 votes to 291, majority 31
Backbench compromise of 28 days' detention: Passed by 323 votes to 290, majority 33

But Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy warned Mr Blair could become a "lame duck" leader.

And outgoing Conservative leader Michael Howard says Mr Blair should resign, although he does not think critics could win a no confidence motion.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke told BBC News he had "no doubt" that Mr Blair would still serve a full third term in Downing Street.

'Taking the rap'

Mr Clarke said Mr Blair had left it to him as home secretary to decide whether to hold a vote on the 90-day plan.

But Downing Street said the prime minister was "in no way saying he is going to let the home secretary take the rap".

Defence Secretary John Reid suggested Mr Blair's stature was enhanced.

He said Tory leadership contenders David Cameron and David Davis had "crippled" themselves politically by supporting the 28-day compromise.

And Chancellor Gordon Brown said: "Tony Blair must continue to implement the agenda on which we were elected. It's only six months, you know, since there was a general election."

High stakes?

Some Labour MPs expressed concerns about Mr Blair's authority, particularly over planned reforms.

Ex-Health Secretary Frank Dobson, one of the rebels, said: "Quite a number of people who voted with the government told me that there is no question of them supporting the education White Paper or plans to privatise parts of the National Health Service."

Mr Dobson said he did not want a change of prime minister but wanted Mr Blair to change.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly, who supported the government, warned there would "be hell to pay" if Mr Blair used the same leadership style on health and education reforms.

Police and politics claim

Former minister John Denham said Mr Blair must learn that backbenchers would no longer take him on trust.

But Labour backbencher Stephen McCabe said: "There's actually a quite broad base of support for this legislation because we realise just how serious the stakes are."

Ex-Conservative Cabinet ministers Peter Lilley and Stephen Dorrell have criticised the government for using chief constables to lobby MPs ahead of the detention plan vote.

In a Commons motion, they said they feared the move was a "damaging step towards the politicisation of the police".

But Downing Street denied the claim, saying it was right for police to explain why they backed the 90-day plan.

What does the future hold for Tony Blair's government?

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific