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Growing pressure on PM Brown to step down; Labour in turmoil

Thursday, June 4th 2009 - 16:03 UTC
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Cameron called for elections saying “the government is collapsing before our eyes” Cameron called for elections saying “the government is collapsing before our eyes”

Britain’s Gordon Brown's authority as Prime Minister has been dealt a severe blow as Communities Secretary Hazel Blears quit the Cabinet on the eve of Thursday crucial European and local elections.

Tory leader David Cameron said the fourth ministerial resignation in two days showed the PM had lost command of a Government which was “collapsing before our eyes”, while Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg told MPs: “Labour is finished.”

But Mr Brown rejected opposition calls for an immediate general election. He insisted he was focusing on cleaning up the parliamentary expenses system and tackling the recession.

However, he ducked Mr Cameron's challenge to say whether Alistair Darling - tipped for the chop in the reshuffle expected within the next few days - would still be in the Treasury next week.

In a letter to Mr Brown confirming her resignation, Ms Blears said she was proud of her service to the Government over the past eight years and would “work tirelessly to see Labour elected at the next General Election”.

But she pointedly offered none of the usual expressions of support for the Prime Minister or his policies. In response, Mr Brown praised the Salford MP's achievements as a minister and said he hoped she would return to Government in the future.

Mr Cameron repeated his call for an immediate general election in a speech to Conservative activists in Hammersmith, west London.

“People know we have got to cleanse our political system,” he said. “We need a general election so the public can be the judge and jury.

Labour MPs are reportedly circulating a draft email urging Gordon Brown to stand down. Amid an apparently swelling mutiny against the Prime Minister, there were reports that up to 100 MPs could be prepared to put their names to it.

The email is said to be addressed to Mr Brown, who is already reeling from the announcements of four departures from his Government in the past two days.

The email states: ”We are writing now because we believe that in the current political circumstances you can best serve the interests of the Labour Party by stepping down as Prime Minister.“

No-one has so far broken cover to claim ownership of, or support for, the email. One MP suggested there could be an impromptu vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister when the Parliamentary Labour Party meets on Monday.

And senior backbencher Barry Sheerman warned Mr Brown was ”in trouble” if he did not react swiftly to widespread disillusionment in the PLP.

In related news Labour has been tipped for disaster in Thursday's European elections as a new poll suggested it would finish behind Ukip. The governing party trails both the Conservatives and Nigel Farage's anti-EU party in a YouGov poll.

Among people certain to vote, Labour can count on just 16% support, just ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 15% and behind Ukip, which stands on 18%, it found.

The Tories are set to remain the largest British party in the European Parliament with a reduced majority of votes at 26%, the poll concluded.

The survey of 4,014 people, commissioned by the Daily Telegraph, also supported predictions that some of the minor parties could benefit from the MPs' expenses scandal.

The Greens were tipped to pick up 10% while the BNP could record 5%, enough to hand the far-right party its first seat in Brussels.

Categories: Politics, International.

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