Charles Clarke – voice of Britain! (5 October 2008)

A very interesting reshuffle, but what is wrong with the phone at No 10?

I do think that Gordon has made a mistake in this reshuffle. Not in bringing Peter back into the heart of government, where a person of that level of ability belongs, but in presiding over sheer administrative incompetence. There can be no other explanation for the failure of the No 10 switchboard, which under previous prime ministers was a model of efficiency, to place the calls to other people who could help dig the government out of the deep hole in which it finds itself.

Peter's return suggested that Gordon is not completely without imagination and the capacity to make appointments on merit rather than irrelevant considerations of personality or history. But what is the point if he cannot even get an outside line?

If I were Prime Minister, which I might have been if Tony hadn't buckled under the pressure of headlines about some detail of prisons policy, I would do this. I would look down the list of the most important Cabinet offices, and compare them with the brightest intellects languishing on the back benches. And I would say, "Get me Charles Clarke's mobile number."

Charles Clarke was talking to himself