It was my misjudgement, says Clarke

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Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the The Home Secretary was asked whether it was his misjudgement rather than Mr Blair's that resulted in the Government pressing the 90-day proposal. Asked where he stood today, Mr Clarke said: "Very regretful."

Asked about his standing in his job, Mr Clarke said: "I don't know, that is a matter for the Prime Minister and for anybody else.

"But yes it was my judgement, I regret that I got the judgement wrong in terms of the House and the ability to get that position through, and there are lots of issues to be looked at from that point of view.

"But the terrorism legislation right across the range remains, we have got the third reading on it today, with a wide range of different measures."

Asked whether his own authority had been damaged, Mr Clarke said: " Anybody's authority (is) damaged, and certainly in my case mine, in the sense that I failed to get the majority in the Commons to vote for the position that I thought was right. I obviously regret that."

Mr Clarke turned on Labour's "serial rebels" who were " hell-bent" on trying to defeat the Government.

"You do have a group of people who are utterly determined to punch Tony Blair on the nose," he said.

"People like [Medway MP] Bob Marshall-Andrews work with the Tories, actively conspire to arrange votes where that can happen."

He told Sky News the opposition parties were "entirely motivated by opportunism and a desire to beat the Government".

The Home Secretary conceded yesterday was a "major defeat" in terms of the particular 90-day measure.

But he said other counter-terrorism measures would still go on to the Statute Book.

"I regret it very much," he said.

"I criticise myself for my own failure to win that argument in the way that I would have liked to do so.

"The judgement I made, unfortunately, wrongly as it turned out, was that there would be a majority in the House for the 90 days, plus this important concession of the sunset clause to give people a year to look at it."

Mr Clarke denied the defeat was damaging to Mr Blair. He said the Prime Minister had made it clear he would listen to critics of other controversial policies.

"I am certain that the Prime Minister will want, on all the issues of change, to discuss right across the party, the direction that we are going and the way which we are trying to go about it, in a great deal of detail," he said.

Tony Blair today said there was a "worrying gap" between MPs who rejected the police demand for 90 days and the reality of the terrorist threat.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister expressed his view that in his opinion, there was a worrying gap between parts of Parliament and the reality of the terrorist threat and public opinion."

The spokesman said that view was confirmed by police and the security services after a Downing Street meeting this morning.

Mr Blair also voiced his support for Mr Clarke and chief whip, Hilary Armstrong, at today's cabinet meeting.

The PM's spokesman said "in no way" was Mr Blair letting the Home Secretary take the rap for the defeat. He said there was no division between Mr Blair and Mr Clarke over strategy or tactics. The spokesman said Mr Blair had absolute confidence in his chief whip.

He said: "He praised the efforts of her and her team and that was echoed around the cabinet table."

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