Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BLAIR ORDERS BROWN HOME; with Terror Vote on Knife-Edge, Angry Chancellor Told to Fly Back from Israel the Minute He Lands

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BLAIR ORDERS BROWN HOME; with Terror Vote on Knife-Edge, Angry Chancellor Told to Fly Back from Israel the Minute He Lands

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL WAUGH

TONY BLAIR ordered Gordon Brown back from a foreign visit today in a dramatic bid to save the Government's terror Bill.

The Chancellor was hauled back to London within minutes of touching down in Tel Aviv for a planned Middle East peace conference.

A furious Mr Brown had to turn round and catch the next available flight after being told by Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong that his presence was crucial for a vote this afternoon on plans to detain terror suspect for 90 days without charge.

Mr Brown had been given special permission to be absent from the Commons to attend a long-planned meeting with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

But although he had been planning to be "paired" with a Tory MP to cancel out his absence, the Chancellor was told he was needed for a symbolic show of solidarity with the Prime Minister.

In another sign of Downing Street's nerves, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was taken out of talks in Moscow this morning and ordered to fly home.

In today's knife-edge vote which threatens Mr Blair's majority of 67, up to 30 Labour rebels are expected to team up with Tories and Liberal Democrats to try to scupper Mr Blair's controversial plans for detention without charge for three months.

Amid rising panic in Downing Street that Mr Blair did not have the numbers to avoid a humiliating defeat, Mr Brown was dragooned into a frantic round of arm-twisting of wavering Labour backbenchers.

While waiting at Tel Aviv airport for a return flight, Mr Brown said: "We were on a plane for a number of hours, and when we arrived here I took advice from the whips' office and felt that the right thing to do was to ensure that all Labour votes possible were available today.

My message is that the security of the nation comes first and all members of the general public understand that after 7 July.

"I will talk to colleagues and I think it's very important that we all play our part in maximising the vote."

When asked whether Mr Blair's personal authority was at stake, Mr Brown replied: "It's important for the Government to win this vote, but it's important for the needs of the nation. …

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