Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

PM BLASTED OVER POLL HUMILIATION; Defeat Blamed on 'Unjust Style'

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

PM BLASTED OVER POLL HUMILIATION; Defeat Blamed on 'Unjust Style'

Article excerpt

GORDON BROWN came under fire from former Cabinet minister Charles Clarke today for his ''incompetent and unjust'' handling of the expenses scandal.

In the aftermath of Labour's humiliating defeat in the Norwich North by-election, Mr Clarke blamed the dramatic swing away from the party on the Prime Minister's response to the crisis.

The former Home Secretary, MP for neighbouring Norwich South, accused both Mr Brown and Tory leader David Cameron of abandoning ''fairness'' and ''denigrating'' their own MPs.

Writing in The Independent, Mr Clarke said: ''It was this arbitrary approach which led directly to the by-election as the Prime Minister vilified Ian Gibson, but not on any fair basis.

''This incompetent and unjust style has deeply damaged democratic politics.

''Moreover the appalling result in Norwich illustrates the important political side-effect that Labour, as the governing party, has been injured worst of all.'' Mr Gibson resigned as MP for Norwich North after being told by a Labour disciplinary panel he would not be allowed to stand at the next election over revelations about his expenses claims.

Labour was licking its wounds today after Tory candidate Chloe Smith overturned Mr Gibson's 5,000-plus Labour majority to win the seat by 7,348 votes.

Mr Brown said the reverse was ''disappointing'' but tried to play down its significance, saying no party ''can take a great deal of cheer from this'' as votes for main parties fell across the board.

He also conceded that the local popularity of Ian Gibson, the MP who quit after being banned from standing for Labour over his expense claims, had played a part in the Tory win.

Although the Conservatives polled fewer votes overall than at the 2005 general election, it greatly increased its share to nearly 40% as turnout fell to 45%. A repeat of the result across the country at the next general election would sweep the Opposition into Downing Street with a majority of 218, Press Association analysis showed. …

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