Page last updated at 23:45 GMT, Saturday, 2 May 2009 00:45 UK

Clarke in smears row action call

Charles Clarke
Charles Clarke has been one of Gordon Brown's most persistent critics

Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke has called for a clear-out of all ministers and advisers associated with the smear e-mails controversy.

Mr Clarke, who last week said that recent events made him "ashamed" to be a Labour MP, told the Mail on Sunday a "poisonous team" had been in Number 10.

Damian McBride, the PM's former press adviser, resigned over messages which reportedly discussed smearing Tory MPs.

Mr Clarke said the party still needed to sever all links to the row.

In an interview with the BBC in Norwich on Friday, Mr Clarke also said Labour's performance had to "improve dramatically".

'No lone gun'

He has been a persistent critic of Mr Brown and was one of a handful of Labour MPs not to back him for the party leadership.

But his comments came amid mounting criticism of the prime minister's performance on issues such as Gurkha settlement rights and MPs' expenses and opposition claims his authority has been fatally undermined.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Clarke called for a complete clear-out of all ministers and "noxious apparatchiks" associated with Mr McBride's tactics.

"Damian McBride was not a lone gun in the politics of 10 Downing Street," Mr Clarke said.

"He was part of a poisonous team."

He said the matter "won't be laid to rest" until all links with former advisers were severed and "those ministers who worked very closely with them are removed from their positions".

Another former home secretary, David Blunkett, has warned of a "catastrophic" collapse in trust and urged Mr Brown to regain the political initiative.

But Downing Street denied Mr Brown had been damaged by this week's events.

And on Saturday former deputy prime minister John Prescott hit out at Labour colleagues criticising Mr Brown.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Prescott said members should get behind the party.

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