Cabinet 'plots against Brown'
CABINET ministers are privately plotting to replace Gordon Brown as Labour leader, according to a senior Labour MP who has slammed the troubled Premier as a "moody, disloyal personality".
Labour MP Graham Stringer, a former Cabinet Office minister, told Scotland on Sunday that his senior parliamentary colleagues were preparing the ground for a new leader amid growing panic that Labour is facing certain defeat following the disastrous May Day local elections last week.
"Conversations between Cabinet ministers and backbenchers are going on in private," he said. "If anyone thinks that MPs are not obsessed with talking about whether Gordon should be leader they are sadly mistaken. They are talking about nothing else."
Stringer, the MP for Manchester Blackley, added: "I never thought the Labour Party could win with Gordon and I'm sorry to have been right. He's spent 10 to 12 years being disloyal to Tony Blair, which never struck me as being credible for a new Prime Minister."
He went on: "He's got a moody, disloyal personality that does not appeal to a lot of people – particularly those who switched to Labour in '97. It's his personality and his policies, which have been a bit bizarre over the last eight to nine months."
He went on: "At the moment a lot of people in the Cabinet and outside it would make a better fist of getting a coherent set of polices and not frightening off the voters. We need someone who can appeal both to our core voters, like the biscuit factory worker in my constituency who lost 37 because of the abolition of the 10p tax, and to people who voted Labour for the first time in '97."
Stringer's claim that ministers are moving against Brown will trigger renewed speculation that the Prime Minister could be toppled within months following Labour's catastrophic defeat last week in the English local elections and the London Mayoral vote.
Yesterday the newly elected Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson, said Labour should pick Foreign Secretary David Miliband. "But I don't think they'll do it," he said.
Brown is also facing demands from Labour MPs to back down over his plans to detain terror suspects for 42 days without charge.
The Prime Minister is preparing to extend the current 28-day limit but Labour backbenchers have warned they feel strongly enough about the issue to force a Commons defeat on Brown which could trigger his fall from office.
Labour MP David Winnick, who led the successful rebellion against Blair's proposals for 90-day detention in 2005, said:
If they decide to press ahead with the measure, the Government must recognise that there is quite a possibility it won't be passed by the Commons or the Lords."
PM urges unity after poll rout
Jenny Percival and Eddie Barnes
GORDON Brown will today take to the TV studios and urge his party to unite behind him as he launches a fight-back following Labour's May Day election rout.
In a series of interviews, the Prime Minister will insist there is time to save Labour from defeat in the next general election.
Brown is also expected to carry out a major Cabinet reshuffle later this summer. Scotland on Sunday understands that the post of Scottish Secretary could be axed to make way for a new 'Minister of the Regions' with responsibility for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Current Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy is said to be favourite to take up the post.
Brown will unveil a series of new policies this week in a draft Queen's Speech, including help for first-time buyers, new rights for parents over their children's education, and fresh measures to tackle binge-drinking and failing schools.
A raft of policy announcements also include tougher drink-drive laws, an equalities bill, a White Paper on reform of the House of Lords, an overhaul of party funding and a statement on British values.
Constituency parties and the unions will also be given a bigger role in policy making as Brown attempts to keep to his promise to listen as well as lead.
He is also expected to confirm that he intends to reclassify cannabis from a class C to a class B drug – ignoring the recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw insisted yesterday that Labour could go on to win a fourth term because the next election would be different from what was partly a "mid-term protest vote".
He conceded that voters had wanted to punish Labour for scrapping the 10p income tax rate. "They wanted to punish (Gordon Brown] – or punish us in respect of the 10p," said Straw, who also appeared to indicate that Brown would now wait until the last possible moment in 2010 to go to the polls.
"The situation in two years' time will be different from where we are today."
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "It was a message to the Government. It was a kick up the backside to us in government from the public saying: 'It's tough outside, we're feeling the pinch and we want you to lead.' Gordon stepped up to the mark yesterday and said 'We need to listen to what you are saying and we need to lead'."
But MP Ian Gibson said Labour had not engaged with the public on big issues – ministers speeches were "leaden, boring" without "passion or belief".
Prime Minister needs to change – but can he do it?
ANALYSIS: Tom Brown
THE May Day massacre at the polls was an unmitigated disaster for Labour and a personal humiliation for Gordon Brown. We could be witnessing Labour's long, lingering death.
It must be mortifying for the Prime Minister to find himself compared to former leader Michael Foot, the hapless joke-figure who marched Labour to oblivion. Labour has been down before but never so down.
For weeks, even friends of the PM have been asking: how has it all gone so wrong, so quickly, so early in Gordon's premiership? England and Wales have given the answer, as core voters stayed at home and many swallowed lifelong scruples to vote Tory. Down south, the Tories are the alternative; in Scotland, it is the Nationalists. The consequences could be devastating for the UK.
Winning three successive UK elections was unprecedented and winning a fourth now seems a virtual impossibility. Scotland becomes even more crucial, since without the former safe seats north of the border, Labour will have no chance. These results show there is no such thing as a Labour 'heartland' and traditional votes cannot be taken for granted.
More than 100 Labour MPs – including half of Brown's Cabinet – are sweating about their chances of keeping their seats at the next election. They will not be slow in calculating whether there needs to be a change at the top.
If there has been no improvement in fortunes by September, Brown will find himself fighting for his political life at the party conference.
He says he will "listen and lead" but what he really needs to do is listen and adapt. He needs new advisers – not from the City and public relations but from the real world – to communicate a vision, and tell baffled supporters what their party stands for. Next month's pre-Queen's speech will have to be a radical, reforming programme.
A Cabinet reshuffle is on the cards, but what is needed is a change of style and attitude. Easier said than done because, as one Cabinet member says: "Getting Gordon to change is like turning a super-tanker."
Kenny Farquharson: We'll never love Brown, if he can't
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