Clarke renews attack on Brown

Former home secretary Charles Clarke has launched a second attack on Gordon Brown in the wake of Tony Blair’s announcement that he plans to quit Downing Street within a year.

Amid continuing speculation about the future of the Labour leadership, Mr Clarke told the Daily Telegraph that the chancellor was “deluded” to think that Mr Blair would now anoint him as his successor, portraying Mr Brown as a “control freak” unable to work with others.

Mr Clarke’s comments mark the second attack he has made on Mr Brown’s character in the past two days, he also told London’s Evening Standard that the chancellor’s reaction to Labour’s succession issue was “absolutely stupid”.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph published today, Mr Clarke claimed that the chancellor was “totally, totally uncollegiate”, stressing that Mr Brown “thinks he has to control everything”.

“From my own experience of dealing with student finance and ID cards, it was very, very difficult to work with him, very difficult indeed. It was the control-freak thing. His massive weakness is that he can’t work with people,” said Mr Clarke.

The MP for Norwich South added that the “courage question” was a “big thing” for the chancellor, who he claimed was “not a risk-taker”.

“As a prime minister, there are many things about which you can’t be certain,” he added.

“You can’t be cowed and worried. You can’t have endless reviews. You have to act. The courage question is a big thing for Gordon.”

Mr Clarke also suggested that Mr Brown had “bottled it” during the 1994 Labour leadership contest by failing to stand against Mr Blair.

He stressed that the chancellor was under the “complete delusion” that he would have won the contest had he stood, claiming that Mr Brown would have been “humiliated” if he had run against Mr Blair.

Mr Clarke added that Mr Brown’s failure to confront Labour rebels angling for Mr Blair’s departure was “completely unacceptable”.

“It’s not relevant whether Gordon organised it. Gordon ought – as chancellor and as putative prime minister – to have condemned it from the outset,” he said.

Mr Clarke, a former ally of Mr Blair, stressed that he was “not working in league” with either the prime minister or Downing Street in making the comments, claiming that he had been “furious” at being sacked as home secretary four months ago.

Nonetheless, Mr Clarke’s second attack on Mr Brown’s character may be viewed by the chancellor’s allies as an attempt to undermine his chances of becoming leader, amid further speculation about the succession following Mr Blair’s refusal to name a departure date.

The prime minister will today attempt to curb the current infighting within his party and rally Labour activists during a speech to a new Labour think tank.

Attending the tenth anniversary conference of the Progressive Organisation, Mr Blair is expected to urge activists to stop “fretting” about Labour’s current poor performance in the opinion polls.