December 5 2013 Latest news:
Joseph Watts, Political editor
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Former Norwich MP and Labour heavy-weight Charles Clarke has claimed Tony Blair’s time in government was cut short because he was so bad at reshuffles.
The one-time home secretary, who was one of Mr Blair’s closest allies, made the comments as he gave evidence to a committee of MPs this week which was inquiring into how disruptive reshuffles are for a government.
Asked if he thought Mr Blair was “particularly bad” at reshuffles, with them being too chaotic and frequent, Mr Clarke agreed that he was.
He said: “His government could have gone on longer if he’d been better at it, and it would have been better government and better for the country and also actually better for Tony Blair.”
He went on: “One of Tony’s weaknesses was that he thought that most of what was done in government came from number ten and number 11 Downing Street.
“And he thought that, essentially, he could make things happen by his own strength of will and his own leadership. I think that was partly a consequence of him not having held a cabinet office before having become prime minister.”
Former Norwich South MP Mr Clarke was education secretary between 2002 and 2004, before becoming home secretary until 2006.
He went on: “In the case of some very important portfolios he was basically a fatalist.
“He reshuffled transport almost incessantly and I remember him saying to me at one point he thought there was nothing you could do about transport. Ministers couldn’t do anything and therefore there wasn’t very much point.
“His big subjects were education, health, crime. He thought they were the issues where you could really make a difference. So if you didn’t really think you could make much difference, it didn’t really matter who the minister was at any given time.”