Has Sacked Home Secretary Charles Clarke Delivered the Death Blow to Tony Blair?
Byline: JANE MERRICK;TIM SHIPMAN
CHARLES Clarke dealt a devastating blow to Tony Blair's hopes of clinging to power last night.
The former Home Secretary said the Prime Minister had 'lost his sense of purpose and direction'.
In the most damaging assault yet on Mr Blair's credibility by a former high ranking minister, Mr Clarke questioned whether he could recover enough authority to survive in office another year.
He called for Mr Blair to set a timetable for his departure to end the speculation about a handover to Gordon Brown. And he appeared to nail his colours to the Chancellor's mast by saying he would be 'happy' to see him in Downing Street.
Mr Clarke's attack on his former boss was seen as revenge for his sacking as Home Secretary last month.
Westminster was awash with rumours that he plans to emulate Geoffrey Howe, the former Chancellor whose devastating indictment of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 triggered her downfall.
Mr Blair ousted Mr Clarke - one of his most loyal ministers - over his handling of the scandal of 1,000 foreign prisoners wrongly freed instead of being deported.
Yesterday Mr Clarke broke his silence in a series of interviews that sparked Downing Street fears that he is trying to precipitate Mr Blair's downfall.
He told the Times: 'I do think there is a sense of Tony having lost his sense of direction, so my advice to him is to recover his sense of purpose and direction and that remains the best option'.
Alternatively, he said, the situation could be resolved 'by Gordon being elected with that sense of leadership and direction himself, and offering that to the party and the country.' In another interview, to be broadcast today on Radio 4's On The Ropes, he said he doubts Mr Blair can carry on after being damaged by recent events.
Mr Clarke said he believed Mr Blair should have announced a departure date of 2008 when he made clear he would not fight a fourth General Election.
Interviewed for BBC2's Newsnight last night, he accused the Premier of sacking him for 'political expediency' rather than long-term reform of the Home Office.
Mr Clarke also accused Mr Blair of reneging on a deal that he would stay as Home Secretary for up to four years. He said: 'When I was appointed in 2005 we agreed it would take three or four years to make the changes that were necessary. …