British cabinet ministers have held talks at Downing Street after Prime Minister Tony Blair’s first major defeat in the job. Forty nine of his Labour MPs rebelled yesterday and voted against government plans to let police hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without charge.
Many of Blair’s critics now say his authority is in doubt. After this morning’s meeting, however, the Prime Minister’s office insisted there would be no watering down of imminent plans to reform schools, hospitals and disability benefits. This echoed his earlier defiance.
Blair said: “Sometimes it is, as I said earlier today, better to lose doing the right thing than to win doing the wrong thing. And I genuinely believe – the House of Commons has made its decision – that’s up to the House of Commons, but I think it was the wrong thing to do for the country, I really do.”
Interior Minister Charles Clarke has tried to take some of the heat off Tony Blair by saying that he himself must take some of the blame for last night’s result. Clarke insists it was a one-off defeat though, and he is certain Blair will now listen to criticism of other policy plans.
The Prime Minister though seems unrepentant, telling reporters there is a “worrying gap” between parliament and the public on the threat of terrorism. Outgoing Conservative Party leader Michael Howard is calling on Blair to resign.