Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Blair 'saw Clarke as Brown rival'

Charles Clarke
Mr Clarke ruled out a serious challenge to Mr Brown before the next election

Charles Clarke has claimed Tony Blair wanted to promote him within the cabinet as a future leadership rival to Gordon Brown.

Mr Blair wanted Mr Clarke to be foreign secretary so he would make "credible" alternative Labour leader.

Mr Blair revealed his "great plan" to Mr Clarke the day after firing him as home secretary in 2006, Mr Clarke told The New Statesman.

Mr Clarke has been one of Mr Brown's most vocal backbench critics.


The former cabinet heavyweight, who also served as Labour chairman and education secretary, said he and Mr Blair had discussed his future in more detail at Chequers a week after he left the cabinet.

"He had a great plan, apparently, that he wanted me to be foreign secretary because he thought that if I had been foreign secretary and home secretary I would be a credible opponent to Gordon as the leader of the party," said Mr Clarke, in an interview with the New Statesman.

He added: "And this had been his long-standing strategy, and that was what he had been intending to do, and that's what he hoped to do."

Mr Brown took over as prime minister in June 2007 with no ministerial colleagues prepared to force an election contest for the Labour leadership.

Mr Clarke, who has not returned to the government since his sacking, said he would now like to.

He said: "Of course if I could find a role in government. I would be absolutely delighted to do it. I would enjoy doing it.

"Obviously the polls are not good at the moment and I want to be able to do all I can to maximise our performance."

Mr Clarke dismissed any prospect of a serious leadership challenge to Mr Brown before the next general election, which must be held by June next year at the latest.

He added: "You won't have from me, or other people, leadership issues being raised. That is where we are."

Mr Clarke was sacked as home secretary in Tony Blair's May 2006 reshuffle in the wake of a foreign prisoner deportation scandal.

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