Second party MP calls on Brown to stand down


BRITAIN:A SECOND Labour MP called on beleaguered British prime minister Gordon Brown to quit yesterday as the party's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, insisted he would not bow to widely reported plots to force him from office.

But as home secretary Jacqui Smith headed the ministerial cast demanding that Labour MPs "stop talking among themselves" and "back the leader", the impression grew of public declarations of loyalty and private plotting among senior ministers and MPs in turmoil as to whether to force a leadership challenge in or around Labour's party conference in September.

Ms Smith said Mr Brown had "proved himself to be a strong prime minister" who deserved the support of all Labour MPs in his avowed intention to "get on with the job". The chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Tony Lloyd, also insisted that most Labour MPs did not want "the diversion of a leadership election".

However both loyalist statements contained implicit acknowledgement that discussions are proceeding behind the scenes at all levels of the party as to whether Mr Brown can be persuaded to stand down or should face the threat of a formal challenge for the position to which he was elected unopposed just over a year ago.

Following the SNP's victory in the Glasgow East byelection and a series of troubled editorials in Labour-friendly newspapers questioning Mr Brown's leadership and his ability to survive, Gordon Prentice MP suggested the prime minister lacked "the skills" necessary for life in 10 Downing Street.

While claiming "sympathy" for Mr Brown's predicament, the Pendle MP said the loss of Labour's 25th safest seat in Glasgow proved the need for change.

"I hope Gordon reflects on things during August and accepts that it is in the party's best interests, and perhaps his own, for him to stand down," he said: "Politics is a rough old business. You have got to be able to paint a picture, you have got to be able to motivate people, and I don't think Gordon has those skills."

Ms Harman - who has also featured in speculation about those thinking themselves possible successors to Mr Brown - insisted he would resist any invitation to stand down. At the same time she acknowledged that the British people had perhaps not "seen the best of him yet as prime minister".

That somewhat under-whelming endorsement came amid reports of tensions between 10 Downing Street and justice secretary Jack Straw following several weekend reports suggesting that allies of Mr Straw had been canvassing support for an autumn offensive against the prime minister.