'Go with honour before you're ousted Gordon': Charles Clarke plunges the knife into Brown

Posted on 3:36 AM by Sameer Shah

Charles Clarke plunged the knife into Gordon Brown today saying he should 'stand down with honour'.

In the most devastating attack yet from a Labour heavyweight, he urged the Cabinet to oust the Prime Minister if Labour's fortunes did not improve and he refused to fall on his sword.

'I think the best for the country and the party would be if Gordon made his own mind up,' he told BBC radio.

'That, after all, is what a whole string of national and party leaders have done in past decades, decided that there came a point where it was better for them to go with honour.

'I think that would be by far the best. In the event that that did not happen then I think it would be down to the Cabinet to decide what to do and to do that in an expeditious way.'

The former home secretary admitted that there was not yet a mood in Cabinet to send a delegation of 'men in suits' but he added: 'I think many in the Cabinet share the view we are in great difficulty and doubtful about our capacity to get out of it.

'There isn't a view at the moment that they should go and speak to Gordon in the way I have described.'

Asked if he thought the Cabinet would be ready to move against Mr Brown if things did not improve, he answered: 'I would expect that.'

Mr Clarke's comments reflect what Mr Brown's critics have been saying privately for months. But his decision to go public was seen as evidence that the Prime Minister's critics realise they do not yet have enough support at Cabinet level to change leader.

There was an immediate counterblast from Brown loyalists, led by Children's Secretary Ed Balls.

Mr Balls dismissed him as a maverick, saying: 'It's not the first time Charles has made those kind of comments. I think it's Charles being Charles.'

But Mr Clarke, whose interview came on the heels of an article he wrote in the New Statesman calling for change to avert 'disaster' at the next election, insisted he was saying what activists and MPs felt.

'I don't think I'm attacking Gordon Brown, I am saying what is commonplace,' he said.
'I think we need to discuss what we do about it.'

He said it should be resolved within 'months', implying that the autumn party conference season and the looming Glenrothes by-election are crucial last chances.

'What I believe is there are two essential possibilities, both of which are perfectly honourable. The first is for the performance of the Government to improve significantly.

'The second is for Gordon Brown to stand down as Prime Minister with honour and have a proper leadership election to address the proper issues.'

His views received strong support from his old colleague, former transport secretary Stephen Byers, who told the Guardian: 'Decisive steps will have to be taken if we are to meet the challenges ahead and re-establish the coalition of support from traditional Labour voters and floating voters that secured three general elections.'

But Tony Blair's former press secretary Alastair Campbell said Labour could still win a fourth term. 'What you have to do to is to have your own policy platform for the future. I think on policy some of the stuff that Gordon has been doing ... is absolutely right," he said.

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