Former Labour home secretary Charles Clarke savaged his party's chance at the general election. Photo: Getty
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Charles Clarke: Tories set to win general election and Kinnock a better leader than Miliband

The former Labour cabinet minister launched a vicious attack on Ed Miliband and his party.

The Conservatives are set to sweep to victory at next year’s general election, former Labour home secretary Charles Clarke has declared.

Clarke warned that Ed Miliband’s One Nation Labour party “has no narrative” and has failed to “set out a clear statement of what Labour would actually do”.

Instead the party has set out an “assembly of odd policies like the electricity [price] freeze or whatever”, he said in an interview with the Huffington Post.

He also declared former Labour leader Neil Kinnock a far better head of the party than Ed Miliband. A former chief of staff to Kinnock, Clarke said: “Neil has far, far more qualities than Ed Miliband as a leader”.

He added: “Neil was a fantastic leader and brought Labour back towards victory.”

Lending credence to the Conservative line that Labour overspent under Gordon Brown’s stewardship, Clarke said his party “started overspending in 2006”.

“We had very tight control prior to that, we had the situation running well,” he said, adding: “from about 2006 until 2008 we did overspend, not very, very dramatically but significantly, and we should have had the controls on”.

He also slammed Miliband’s choice of chancellor. “I think it would be better for Labour if Alistair [Darling] was there rather than Ed Balls,” he said.

Clarke, who lost his parliamentary seat in 2010, has attacked the Labour leadership in the past, but delivered the most deadly blow yet with his comment that “ the most likely outcome is a Tory overall majority”.

He also attacked former Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Taking a further dig at Miliband by remarking that Blair would “have every chance of being elected prime minister” in 2015 were he Labour leader again, Clarke nonetheless criticised the former Prime Minister for amassing a personal fortune through his business interests.

Clarke said: “There is no question that he has damaged his reputation. The money has damaged his reputation, some of his contacts have damaged the reputation, some aspects of the way he's spent his life have damaged his reputation.”

He censured Brown for his poor attendance record in Parliament: “He's an elected member of parliament. If he doesn't want to be an MP he should stand down.”

Miliband and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also came under attack for making “ignorant and ill-informed statements” about Labour's immigration record.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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