Clarke: No formal offer for new key post

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor Norwich MP and former home secretary Charles Clarke yesterday denied a report that he has turned down a job offer by the prime minister.

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor

Norwich MP and former home secretary Charles Clarke yesterday denied a report that he has turned down a job offer from the prime minister.

The London Evening Standard claimed that he had initially accepted and then rejected a special post of a "returnees envoy" who would negotiate with foreign govern-ments to secure guarantees of safety for people facing deportation from Britain.

But Mr Clarke told the EDP last night: "There was no formal offer, and therefore there has been no change of mind." He added, however, that "some elements of the story are right", and it is understood that a dialogue with 10 Downing Street to bring him in from the cold has been going on for some time.


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A reaction to the story from Gordon Brown's official spokesman was noticeably warm. "The prime minister believes Charles Clarke is a distinguished and exper-ienced former minister with much to offer public life in the future," he said.

"He has always said that he would welcome all people of talent and committed to public service to support the work of the government, but I'm not prepared to discuss individual cases or the prime minister's private conversations."

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Told of this, Mr Clarke said it was a "generous" comment.

There is a long history of tension in relations between Mr Brown and Mr Clarke - a factor which seems to owe less to policy differences than to two strong personalities sometimes rubbing each other up the wrong way.

The Norwich South MP became one of the leading allies of Tony Blair. But he was nonetheless removed from the post of home secretary in a cabinet reshuffle in May 2006, as a consequence of the furore over foreign prisoners being released without consid-eration of deportation. He rejected offers of other cabinet posts, including that of defence secretary.

Four months later he strongly criticised Mr Brown for failing to intervene to stop what seemed to be an attempted coup against Mr Blair, and accused the then chancellor of being "totally uncollegiate" and of thinking "he has to control everything".

After such comments there was little surprise at Westminster when Mr Brown left Mr Clarke out of his first cabinet.

Yesterday's comments suggest, however, that both men now see an interest in achieving a rapprochement that could see Mr Clarke returned to government.

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