Brown 'will be ditched as Prime Minister before next election'
FRANK Field, the leader of Labour's 10p tax rebels, came under fierce attack yesterday after claiming that Gordon Brown would be ditched as Prime Minister before the next general election.
He said there were sufficient Labour back-benchers to block the Budget – which has still to complete its passage through parliament – and this would force Mr Brown to step down.
In one of the most coruscating attacks on Mr Brown to date, the former welfare minister recalled "tantrums of an indescribable nature" coming from the then Chancellor and said he "looks so unhappy in his own body it conveys the most dismal message to people".
But Mr Field was quickly branded a loner who appeared to be acting dishonourably by Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary and Mr Brown's closest Cabinet ally.
Last month, Mr Field tabled a finance bill amendment seeking a full compensation package for the estimated 5.3 million low-income Britons losing out as a result of the removal of the 10p income tax band, and met the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, to agree a way forward.
But Mr Balls said of Mr Field: "People could look at what he was saying a few weeks ago and believe at that time that his intentions were honourable. As for (his latest comments on the Prime Minister], I leave you to draw your own conclusions from that."
Asked if Mr Brown would keep trying to work with Mr Field, Mr Balls said: "I'd be surprised if the Prime Minister will be taking Frank Field's advice generally."
However, Mr Balls admitted the government had to move quickly to reverse the crisis caused by the 10p tax. "The reality is that we have got behind the curve on the issue of family finances," he said.
"The 10p tax is a symbol for people's concerns about what is happening to their budgets."
Mr Field yesterday said he was sure Mr Brown would not call the next general election until the last possible moment – May 2010.
He added: "I would be very surprised if he's still the leader of the Labour Party then and therefore leading us into the election campaign."
Mr Brown faced a welter of criticism over the weekend in memoirs from Cherie Blair, the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, Labour fundraiser Lord Levy and John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister.
Mr Prescott said he frequently had to intervene in blazing rows between Mr Blair and Mr Brown, and described the current Prime Minister as somebody who would "go off like a bloody volcano".
Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, said he was concerned that the political agenda was being dominated by the "character assassination" of Mr Brown.
He added: "What the public are concerned about is now, all these knives coming out. I'm not a great Brown fan club leader, but I respect him as a really, really decent, good, able politician. Is he perfect? No, he's not. Nor is anybody else in the world. Some people see an opportunity to put the knife into somebody they don't like."
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Mr Brown "was not going to be distracted" by Mr Field's comments or the allegations in the various memoirs.
He said: "The Prime Minister is focusing on the business of government and the big issues facing the country."
Asked whether Mr Brown was unhappy at the recent spate of memoirs, his spokesman added: "These things happen from time to time."
A "mini Queen's speech" of new policies will be published tomorrow for consultation. These will centre on education, health and the constitution.
The Prime Minister's spokesman added: "Mr Brown said when he became Prime Minister (that] rather than the government's legislative programme just being announced without any prior consultation, in future there will be an opportunity for people to be able to comment and respond to the government's different proposals."
Meanwhile, bookmakers William Hill yesterday slashed the odds of Mr Brown remaining as Prime Minister this year from 5/1 to 3/1.
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