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Email slip show Clarke's softer side

Not exactly cotton wool-like, though

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Home Secretary Charles Clarke is learning first hand the perils of email, having accidentally appended a revealing early draft of a letter to an email sent to his opposite numbers.

Clarke yesterday laid out his proposals for new anti-terror laws that would extend the length of time a suspect could be held without charge from two weeks, to three months. In a letter to his Tory and Liberal Democrat counterparts, Clarke asked for his colleagues' views on the three month detention proposal, while giving the idea his firm backing.

However, also attached to the email was an early draft of the letter, in which he takes a much less hardline approach.

The draft read:

I think the case for some extension is clear, though I believe there is room for debate as to whether we should go as far as three months, and I am still in discussion with the police on this point.

As compared to the final version:

It may be that you are convinced by the case for some extension but feel that three months is too great an extension. I would be interested in your views on this particular point.

The differing versions have been widely interpreted as revealing Clarke's own doubts about the length of the extension. The Guardian suggests the letter will reignite speculation over Clarke's future, after earlier rumours that Blair does not think Clarke is taking a tough enough line on civil liberties, and is planning to replace him as Home Secretary.

Liberal Democrats and Conservative politicians have already rejected Clarke's proposal, and Amnesty International dubbed it "internment in all but name". ®

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