Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Blunkett briefed against me, former Met chief says

Lord Stevens claims in his autobiography that the former Home Secretary briefed against him following meetings to try to get him sacked.

The former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who retired in January, says that the best advice he received about Mr Blunkett was "be wary of him - and never go to see him alone. Always take a witness".

In his book Not for the Faint-hearted: My Life Fighting Crime, Lord Stevens writes: "For years I had absolutely no problem with Michael Howard, nor with Jack Straw. Then, in the form of David Blunkett, there came along a new Home Secretary who knew very little about policing." He also reveals that there was an al-Qa'ida plot to assassinate Tony and Cherie Blair during the Queen's Golden Jubilee parade in London in 2002. The plot was uncovered by the security services and a secret protection operation was ordered.

His revelations came as Downing Street was forced to deny reports that Mr Blunkett was about to be moved from his current job as Work and Pensions Secretary to return as Home Secretary. Downing Street is believed to be frustrated with Charles Clarke, who has adopted a less authoritarian stance than his predecessor.

No 10 dampened speculation about a reshuffle in December and dismissed reports that Charles Clarke was about to be replaced by David Blunkett as "totally untrue".

Friends of Mr Blunkett also moved swiftly to squash the rumours, and said that he had "no desire to return to the Home Office". The reports also suggested that Ruth Kelly would be replaced as Education Secretary by Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, while John Reid would replace Jack Straw as Foreign Secretary.

No 10 issued a statement saying: "Downing Street is making it clear that the assertion in The Sunday Telegraph that David Blunkett will replace Charles Clarke is totally untrue. And the other speculation about senior positions in government contained in the article is equally without any foundation."

But the story has reignited rumours that Tony Blair, eager to push ahead with his reform agenda before leaving office, wants to remind ministers he can move them from their jobs if they fail to co-operate.

Gordon Brown, the favourite to succeed Tony Blair, is said to be laying the ground for his takeover, and has assembled a large team in the Treasury to work on policies across Whitehall.