Charles Clarke moves into home office

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett, in the infamous biography which has contributed to his downfall, accused Charles Clarke of "going soft" and "taking his foot off the accelerator".

David Blunkett, in the infamous biography which has contributed to his downfall, accused Charles Clarke of "going soft" and "taking his foot off the accelerator".

Now he will have to watch from the sidelines to see whether the man chosen to take over his mantle at the Home Office pushes on with his policies there.

Mr Clarke, once chief-of-staff to former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, is now one of Tony Blair's trusted lieutenants.

Elevated to Education Secretary when Estelle Morris resigned in October 2002, his most challenging task was to get tuition fees past hostile Labour backbenchers.

He was forced to confront the critics in a series of bruising Commons encounters, with the Government's massive paper majority slashed to just five at one point.

But the measure was eventually got through thanks to what his deputy Alan Johnson dubbed a "charm offensive": "I was charming and he was offensive".

Often willing to speak his mind in the media, he sparked controversy recently by accusing the Prince of Wales of being "old fashioned and out of time".

A late starter in Parliament - he was elected at the dawn of Tony Blair's first term at the age of 46 - he made it to the Cabinet by the following election.

His appointment as the party's first chairman was not popular with some MPs but came after successful stints as a junior minister.

Never shy in engaging the media, his role then appeared to be chief-in-charge of saying sorry for Labour's first term failings following the election landslide.

But that did not prevent him regularly laying into the media when he felt criticism was unfair.

He is no stranger to the Home Office where he was first posted in 1999 - after a successful spell as schools standards minister - to look after police and crime.

He won plaudits in both posts and has been tipped as a future Labour leader - sparking predictable talk of antipathy between him and Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Charles Rodway Clarke was born on September 21, 1950, in London, the son of Sir Richard Clarke, who was a top civil servant at Tony Benn's Ministry of Technology.

He was educated at Highgate School and later King's College, Cambridge, gaining a BA in maths and economics.

Mr Clarke was president of the NUS from 1975 to 1977 before becoming a councillor in Hackney from 1980 to 1986.

After a brief spell as a part-time lecturer in maths at the City Literary Institute, Mr Clarke, who had been a researcher to Neil Kinnock, became his chief-of-staff in 1983.

He spent nine years by the Labour leader's side until the bitterly disappointing 1992 election defeat.

Mr Clarke failed several times to win a Parliamentary seat and spent the mid-1990s running his own lobbying firm, before being elected as the Labour MP for Norwich South in 1997.

Mr Clarke and his wife Carol, whom he married in 1984, have two sons.