Clarke: No regret over Brown attack

Charles Clarke has said he does not regret calling Gordon Brown “absolutely stupid” at the height of Labour infighting earlier this month.

The former home secretary launched an outspoken attack on the chancellor’s behaviour during a week of turmoil in the Labour party, when a series of resignations forced Tony Blair to announce he would quit as leader within a year.

Mr Brown was widely accused of orchestrating the rebellions, but he denied this and today used his speech to the party conference to praise Mr Blair’s leadership, saying he had made an “immense national and international contribution”.

Last night, Mr Clarke appeared to retract his comments, admitting that “people behaved, including myself, in ways that were probably not in the best and most advised ways” over the past few weeks.

But at a fringe meeting in Manchester this evening, he said he did not regret his comments, which included calling Mr Brown a “control freak” and questioning his “fitness” to lead the party.

“That whole period was a very serious week for the Labour party in the way certain people said certain things in certain ways, and I addressed those questions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jack Straw has insisted he accepts Downing Street’s denial that Cherie Blair, the prime minister’s wife, had walked out of Mr Brown’s speech saying his support for Mr Blair as “a lie”.

“It has been very, very strenuously denied and I accept that, and I think that’s very important,” Mr Straw said.