» Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Charles Clarke

Asked why the Prime Minister had chosen to comment on Charles Clarke’s comments this morning in response to a question of whether this was his "Geoffrey Howe moment" and thus keep the story going, the PMOS said that journalists well knew how the story would have been written had he chosen not to answer the question. As he said this morning, Charles Clarke had made his disappointment at being moved clear on the day. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he would continue to feel that way or express those feelings. Equally the Prime Minister had made clear his high regard for Charles Clarke by offering him an alternative Cabinet post which Charles Clarke had turned down. That had been his choice.

Asked if the Prime Minister shared Charles Clarke’s view that the Home Office had been fit for purpose, the PMOS said that in terms of the problems at the Home Office, the journalists present had highlighted these problems and were well aware of those problems at the time of the reshuffle. Further details of those problems had come out since then. Therefore what was necessary was a fundamental reform of the Home Office and that was what John Reid was leading, and would report back on before the summer recess. Asked if it was the Prime Minister’s view that Charles Clarke couldn’t deliver that fundamental reform, the PMOS said that it was the job of the Prime Minister, whenever problems arose in a department, to assess whether a change of leadership was necessary for one reason or another. The Prime Minister at the time of the reshuffle had decided that that was the case. Equally however he did regard Charles Clarke very highly and that was why he had offered him another Cabinet post. Asked if the Prime Minister had felt that Charles Clarke had hit the buffers and couldn’t go any further, the PMOS said that whenever problems arose you had to make a judgment about whether the nature of those problems meant that it was better to draw a line and move on and the Prime Minister made that decision at the time. Asked what Cabinet position the Prime Minister had offered Charles Clarke, the PMOS said that he didn’t brief on the process of a reshuffle, we briefed on the outcome of a reshuffle.

Asked if the Prime Minister felt that other people were ganging up alongside Charles Clarke, the PMOS said that Charles Clarke’s personal disappointment had been perfectly obvious on the day and understandable given the circumstances. Thus the expression of that disappointment should not be a surprise to anyone. Although we disagree with his view, as Charles Clarke had made clear, he believed that he had been replaced unnecessarily and it was only natural that feeling wouldn’t go away, that was understandable. In terms of the overall direction of the Prime Minister and the Government you need only look at the Prime Minister’s article today, look at the fundamental strategy for the Home Office he had set out in the speech last Friday, look at the major issues which had been tackled such as welfare reform, pensions and the ongoing reform in education and health, and the major issue of energy which was coming up. You could see clearly that there was an agenda there which the Prime Minister was driving forward and should continue to drive forward.

Asked if the Prime Minister had been disappointed by Charles Clarke’s remarks, the PMOS said that it had been a personal statement by Charles Clarke which he was entitled to make. Put to him that the Prime Minister had said last Friday that you didn’t sort out problems in the Home Office by simply changing minister and then subsequently replacing him a few days later and yet that was what he had done, the PMOS said that what the Prime Minister had also done under successive Home Secretaries was push forward a process of reform. You needed to keep building on that process of reform and you had to make judgments as to whether particular problems at particular times were getting in the way of pursuing that process of reform. What mattered in the end was that the process continued to go forward and that the Home Office kept modernising to meet the very different challenges that it faced it today. That was what was happening.

Briefing took place at 7:00 | Search for related news

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