Cabinet rallies to defiant Blair as criticism mounts

An uncompromising Mr Blair told the Cabinet yesterday that there was a gulf between MPs who rejected police requests for power to detain terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without charge and the reality of terror threats. Cabinet ministers rallied to Mr Blair, but senior backbenchers were furious about his comments and warned he must "listen more" to secure planned changes to education, health and welfare. Some rebels privately likened him to an "out-of-touch" Margaret Thatcher in the period before she was ousted in 1990.

David Winnick, a Labour MP who successfully proposed a 28-day detention limit on Wednesday, said: "The idea that those of us who voted for 28 days - the majority of MPs - don't understand the terrorist threat, that we are soft on terror and don't understand the menace from the mass murderers ...is poisonous nonsense. Not one single life of those innocent people murdered on 7 July would have been saved if it was 90 days."

Peter Kilfoyle, a former defence minister, said: "Any reality check should start at No 10. The Prime Minister is out of touch with his own party and both Houses. He can't keep playing the loyalty card. He said after the May election he had listened and learnt. If he listened, he hasn't learnt the right lessons."

Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, said: "We want a strong leader. But strong leaders do listen and take account of broad public opinion and the parliamentary party. There was a very rigid attempt to force through a decision that was never going to be acceptable."

Blair aides acknowledged privately that ministers would need to "communicate better and earlier" with Labour MPs as they made a case for reforms to schools, incapacity benefit and greater use of the private sector by the NHS. They recognised that the argument for a 90-day detention limit was made too late.

The Prime Minister's public message was issued after he met senior police officers, including Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and security service chiefs for what No 10 said was a routine, pre-arranged meeting to discuss counter-terrorism.

John Reid, the Defence Secretary, claimed that the Tories had made "a strategic mistake" by voting against a 90-day limit. "I believe that both Davis and Cameron are now crippled if they become leader of the Conservative Party," he said. "Because they are on the wrong side of the argument about national security."

In the aftermath of Mr Blair's first Commons defeat since coming to power, the Tories accused Labour of "politicising" the police force during a lobbying operation by police chiefs in favour of a 90-day limit. Several police chiefs spoke in favour of the proposal and Andy Hayman, an Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner, addressed groups of wavering Labour MPs.

Two former Tory cabinet ministers, Stephen Dorrell and Peter Lilley, tabled a Commons motion condemning "the unprecedented campaign to mobilise chief constables to lobby MPs in favour of government policy". They said it was "a damaging step towards the politicisation of the police".

Mr Dorrell said: "We need to ensure that the distinction is maintained between the process of policy-making, which is properly for the Government, and the enforcement of law, which is properly for police. The police should be independent of politics, not embroiled in it."

David Davies, a Tory backbencher, accused the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) of "behaving like an affiliated branch of the Labour Party". Downing Street and Acpo rejected the charge, insisting that the 90-day proposal was initially a police initiative and that chief constables were entitled to contact MPs to explain the rationale behind it.

Geoff Hoon, the Leader of the Commons, said MPs needed to hear police views. "No one is suggesting that police officers should be politicised," he said.

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, demanded that Mr Blair explain why he gave MPs inaccurate information about security operations in the run-up to Wednesday's vote. The Prime Minister said there had been arrests in relation to a terrorist operation last weekend. But Mr Howard said a No 10 spokeswoman had already conceded his comment referred to charges, rather than arrests. Two men arrested on 21 October were charged last Friday with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion. But Scotland Yard said that there were no arrests related to terrorism last weekend.

Prime Minister's challenges

21 NOVEMBER

Terrorism Bill goes before the House of Lords

30 NOVEMBER

Report on pensions crisis by commission headed by former CBI boss Adair Turner

DECEMBER

Green Paper on Welfare expected, including cuts to incapacity benefit.

European Union summit in Brussels: pressure to give up £3bn a year rebate on Britain's EU contributions

NEW YEAR

White Paper on health expected: threat of Labour backbench rebellion.

Education Bill due to be published, threatening bigger revolt than over Terrorism Bill

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower