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MPs on Brown: divided they stand

PUBLISHED: 17:20 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:21 25 August 2010

LABOUR politicians have revealed a divided front in the growing fracas surrounding Gordon Brown s premiership.

LABOUR politicians have revealed a divided front in the growing fracas surrounding Gordon Brown's premiership.

This week saw a Labour minister resign, a senior party member sacked and a junior whip dismissed amidst growing calls for the Prime Minister to step aside.

The rebellion has gathered momentum after party chiefs refused to send out nomination papers to members ahead of the Labour Party conference this Saturday.

However whilst Labour MPs in south-east London have tried to keep a lid on the uprising, party grassroots have called for new blood.

Former Orpington parliamentary candidate Chris Purnell said: "We need a leadership contest to bring life back into the party. We're in a ditch and the way out is not to dig down.

"If the unions grasp at the conference that they won't see change on the left without a leadership contest, then we might just get one."

Orpington Labour Party has avoided publicly backing Mr Brown by refusing to form an opinion on whether there should be a leadership contest.

However Erith and Thamesmead MP, John Austin, has bluntly declared that a leadership challenge would be pointless and damaging for the party. Mr Austin said: "It seems that some arch-Blairites would rather the Party lost the election rather than see Gordon Brown succeed."

The veteran MP, who once quipped that he would stand against Tony Blair in an election contest, said it was time for the party to unite behind Mr Brown during the credit crunch. Slamming the 'character assassination' of Mr Brown, he suggested the party should be grateful that Mr Brown's chancellorship had left the country in a strong position to weather the financial slow-down.

Mr Austin added: "Now is the time for solidarity and unity."

Eltham MP Clive Efford took an even harder line, labelling the rebels 'self indulgent' claiming they are 'pandering to personal ambitions over serving the public'.

He said: "People who have resigned so far are people who never liked Gordon. If you chopped them in half you'd see Tony Blair written through them like a stick of rock."

But the backbenchers' frank opinions were not repeated by Greenwich and Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford. The former minister showed signs that the government faithful were trying to avoid even lending credibility to the rebellion.

Mr Raynsford said: "I'm not going to speculate. It's not a local issue. I'm not going to make comments on matters of national significance, trying to undermine the position of the Prime Minister. I wouldn't talk to anyone about it. The speculation is extremely unhelpful."

However, his silence comes just a month after he freely wrote about the challenges facing Labour leadership on the New Statesman website.

The MP wrote: "After the Glasgow East byelection, no one can doubt that Labour is in a deep hole.

"This is much more serious than mid-term blues which may be expected to evaporate as the general election approaches."

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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