Poll adds to woes over Brown future
(Reuters) - Speculation about Prime Minister Gordon Brown's future gathered pace on Saturday with media reports of concern amongst senior Labour figures and a new opinion poll putting the Conservatives 22 points ahead.
Ministers have openly spoken of their support for the embattled prime minister but a day after Labour lost one of its safest parliamentary seats, newspapers were rife with rumours of backbenchers sharpening their knives behind the scenes.
The Guardian said that discussions were under way at cabinet level on whether to seek Brown's "orderly resignation" while the Independent said Labour MPs were urging senior ministers to tell Brown to quit.
"I do not recognise those comments from the Cabinet colleagues I talk to," Cabinet Office minister Ed Miliband told BBC's Newsnight programme when asked about the claims.
"People realise there is a big collective responsibility here -- the collective responsibility is not to turn inwards but to turn outwards and understand the concerns of the country."
The BBC also reported that Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who papers said had been approached by Labour backbench MPs to tell Brown to step down, had told them to "calm down".
The speculation has grown since the Scottish National Party (SNP) snatched a slim 365-vote majority in the Glasgow East constituency with a 22.5 percent swing that overturned the 13,500 majority enjoyed by Labour at the 2005 election.
In further bad news, an opinion poll for the Independent on Saturday showed the Conservatives with 46 percent support of voters, way ahead of Labour on 24 percent.
That would give the Tories a landslide victory at the next general election, which Brown must call by May 2010.
This weekend the party's main policy-making forum is meeting to try to work out how to win back voters disillusioned by a string of political gaffes, rising inflation, falling house prices and a slowing economy.
Brown, whose popularity has slumped in the 13 months since he replaced Tony Blair, has vowed to fight on, saying he is the right man to be at the helm as the country deals with difficult worldwide economic problems.
Former minister David Blunkett backed that stance.
"The issues that affect people are not ones which divide the party or Gordon Brown from any potential successor," he told BBC radio.
"We are not a hatchet job party like the Conservatives who can drop their leader literally at the drop of a hat.
"So grow up, don't go for what might be a popular quick fix that you couldn't actually put in place and let's actually combine in the way we know best and work out what will actually reach people."