by RAY FLEMING
YESTERDAY morning it was almost as difficult to avoid Charles Clarke on the airwaves and in the press as to evade the overkill coverage of the World Cup.
These days departing senior ministers do not simply make a brief dignified statement in the House of Commons, as Geoffrey Howe did in 1990 and Norman Lamont in 1993.
Nowadays, to judge by Mr Clarke's performance, it is necessary to arrange a whirlwind round of appearances on radio and television and interviews in the press.
Curiously, however, in the end the former Home Secretary made less impact than Mr Howe did in a quietly spoken speech that accelerated the downfall of Margaret Thatcher or than Mr Lamont's “in office but not in power” accusation against John Major.
Most of Mr Clarke's ire was directed at his successor at the Home office, John Reid. Although Charles Clarke said that he believed Tony Blair has “lost his sense of purpose and direction”, he did not go on to urge him to leave office as soon as convenient.
Rather he said he wanted the prime minister to “recover his touch” and to remain at No 10 until 2008 when his successor would take over to mould the election manifesto for 2009/2010. Leaving aside whether Mr Blair can relocate the touch he has so obviously lost, there will be few in the Labour Party who want him to stay in the job for as long as Mr Clarke does.

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