Charles Clarke: I have no plans to quit

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Former home secretary Charles Clarke last night insisted he had no plans to quit Westminster and stressed he would be happy to serve in a Gordon Brown government - were a vacancy to arise.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Former home secretary Charles Clarke last night insisted he had no plans to quit Westminster and said he would be happy to serve in a Gordon Brown government - were a vacancy to arise.

The Norwich South MP has already been selected to fight his seat for Labour, but has faced a whispering campaign that he has gone quiet or was sulking after being sacked from the home office last year.

Yesterday, he dismissed suggestions he was ready to throw in the towel and insisted he had no plans to walk away from British politics or his city seat.

"I don't know where the idea that I am not running in the next election comes from," Mr Clarke said. "I am absolutely looking forward to being the Labour candidate and hopefully being elected.

"I understand that there is always speculation about people at points of change in their lives, but the idea that I am not a candidate for the next election is absolute nonsense and has no foundation whatsoever.

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"I've enjoyed my time as the Labour member for Norwich South and have put a great deal of effort in, in terms of serving the people of the city. I have spent all of my life in politics fighting for change and I certainly don't see the job as finished.

"I am hoping the electors in Norwich South will look at all the candidates and not vote in some kind of tactical way."

Asked if he intended to serve a full term, he said, "absolutely".

Last year Mr Clarke was quoted in a national news-paper as saying that Mr Brown was a "deluded control freak" and was totally uncollegiate, and needed to work hard to prove to his colleagues that he was the best man to succeed Tony Blair.

But despite his differences of opinion with Mr Brown and Mr Blair, in the aftermath of his sacking, the former cabinet minister has consistently stated he will be loyal to the government and set about outlining policy ideas in a series of speeches.

"I have indicated to Gordon that I would be very happy to serve if he wanted me to in government," he said. "It's a matter for him, if there were an offer he would want to make, I would be happy to look at it.

"Gordon is a man of great qualities which have been well rehearsed as chancellor. He has had a good start and has done well and I am not surprised (by the opinion polls). Even if he hadn't, there would have been some bounce, there always is when a new leader comes in."

But he was still unconvinc-ed that the prime minister would go to the polls early.

"I think it's more a possibility rather than a probability," he added.

"When I see the Lib Dems are going to focus the whole of their conference on what they call the 'surveillance society' and the Greens on the Iraq war rather than issues of sustainability here in Nor-wich, I think they are missing the big picture," he said.

"I hope to make a contribution in the future - there are major issues to do with the green agenda and the future relevance of the European Union.

"We should be trying much harder to use renewable ener-gy and thinking about build-ing to the highest sustainable standards in housing, schools and hospitals."

But last night both the Lib Dems and the Greens warned the MP that he had a fight on his hands to stay in Parliament.

Simon Wright, Lib Dem candidate for Norwich South, said boundary changes meant the party, which finished second last time around, was within touching distance of seizing the seat.

Adrian Ramsay, who is fighting the seat for the Greens, said the local election results placed the party in pole position to take the seat and there was everything to play for.

"I am quite happy to highlight his record on introducing top-up fees and his attempts to bring in 90-day detention without trial," he said.

The Tories, who finished third last time around, have yet to select a candidate to fight the seat.

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