Clarke rules out leadership with praise for Brown

The former home secretary Charles Clarke has spoken positively of the chancellor Gordon Brown, as the Labour party attempts a show of unity ahead of today’s election and a possible leadership battle.

Mr Clarke has been mentioned as a possible leadership candidate himself, but yesterday praised Mr Brown’s record of chancellor and said it boded well for his abilities as prime minister.

Despite previous open criticisms of the chancellor’s character and personal skills, Mr Clarke said he would be an “effective communicator” as Labour leader.

In a speech to the Foreign Press Association he said: “To the extent that one can see into the future on the basis of Gordon’s record as chancellor, I do not see any reason to believe that he will not be a very effective communicator as a prime minister.”

This follows an interview with the Daily Telegraph last year, in which Mr Clarke said Mr Brown has “psychological issues” he needed to address and accused the chancellor of control freakery.

He has also openly campaigned for an opponent to challenge Mr Brown for the Labour leadership, warning it would damage the party to promote the chancellor unopposed.

However, yesterday he appeared to soften his position and endorse Mr Brown, praising his work in the Treasury.

“His record as chancellor is second to none,” he said.

“It is the best record by a million miles that any Labour chancellor has ever had. It stands pretty good comparison with the chancellor of any political party for 200 years, and that cannot be achieved without an ability to communicate.”

Nevertheless, he warned the Labour party it could not win a fourth election by reeling off their past achievements – as Tony Blair has been increasingly inclined to do when challenged on current issues.

Mr Clarke claimed Labour is too preoccupied with the present to think about the future. In a bid to “move the debate forward”, Mr Clarke has launched the website the 2020 Vision with former Cabinet colleague Alan Milburn.

“After ten years in office we will need to demonstrate that we have the vision and the policies to successfully meet the future challenges faced by our country and the wider world,” they said at its launch.