POLITICS

Ken Clarke 'Surprised' At David Cameron's Decision To Recall Parliament For Thatcher Tributes

12/04/2013 10:39 BST

Ken Clarke has said he was "surprised" by David Cameron's decision to break with tradition and recall parliament to allow MPs to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher.

"I sat through most of it. It was perfectly all right. Inevitably the difficulty is it starts deteriorating into people sort of re-running political arguments," he said.

The cabinet minister, who was Thatcher's health secretary, told the BBC Question Time audience on Thursday: "I was surprised it was done, it has never been done before."

The prime minister has faced some criticism for the cost and value of calling MPs back to Westminster on Wednesday.

Parliament has only been recalled five times since the Second World War, including after the September 11 terrorist attacks and following the 2011 London riots.

Cameron defended the recall of parliament, telling Sky News yesterday it was a "fitting send off to our first ever woman prime minister".

Tory MPs packed the Commons on Wednesday to pay tribute to their iconic leader. However some Labour MPs used the debate to attack the former prime minister's legacy. Glenda Jackson slammed Thatcher for promoting "greed, selfishness and no care for the weaker".

According to The Guardian Speaker John Bercow was taken aback by Cameron's request that parliament be recalled, as the plan had been for tributes to be paid on Monday when the Commons returned from recess.

Yesterday Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell suggested Cameron feared retribution from Fleet Street including "Thatcher worshippers on the Murdoch papers" if he did not "bow down in worship" alongside them with an emergency Commons debate.