Labour MPs unite to tell Brown: the hostilities are over
Wednesday, 08 October 2008

The Guardian Online

Labour MPs rallied behind Gordon Brown last night amid signs that his government reshuffle and the financial crisis have taken the sting out of the challenge to his leadership that emerged last month.

George Howarth, one of the MPs agitating for a leadership challenge, last night called off the fight, telling the prime minister and a packed meeting of Labour MPs that the "hostilities are over".
Howarth said Brown's speech to the parliamentary Labour party was the best speech to a party meeting he had ever heard.
"Things have moved on and it's appropriate that the party unifies in the face of the present financial situation," Howarth said.
"I'm now confident the prime minister has a greater grasp of the problems around him than he did in August. Now the economic situation is on a knife edge and it is completely the wrong time for us to focus on internal party dissent."
The prime minister was reported to have been given loud applause for what Labour MPs regard to have been a successful party conference speech and subsequent cabinet reshuffle.
He told the room the party could still win the next election despite trailing in the polls, with a government aide saying Brown had told the meeting that "people's minds are not yet set". The aide said: "We're back in the game."
Some in the room said Howarth's speech could even be interpreted as an "apology".
Brown also announced that the Glenrothes byelection would be held on November 6. Critics have said that the Labour party is bracing itself to lose the seat and scheduling the byelection in the days immediately following the American elections could obscure a defeat.
One of Brown's more controversial reshuffle appointments, Peter Mandelson, spent the afternoon of his first day back in Westminster in hospital undergoing an emergency operation to have a kidney stone removed.
Mandelson experienced kidney pains over the weekend and was admitted to hospital yesterday afternoon. He was able to attend the first session of Gordon Brown's newly formed National Economic Council in the morning before admission to hospital and his office said he was back in meetings by teatime yesterday.
It also emerged that the deputy leader of the Labour party, Harriet Harman, had condemned in private to friends Brown's decision to sack Parmjit Dhanda in the weekend reshuffle. Dhanda is the government's only elected minister from the Indian community.
Harman texted friends to say that the decision was bad for the government and the party. She is said to be demanding his dismissal be reversed at a later date.
The new parliamentary session presents immediately challenges to Brown, not least over the controversial legislation to increase the time limit for detention without charge to 42 days. There were reports yesterday that the government was even preparing to drop the bill, which faces defeat when it returns to the House of Lords this week.
The government was thought to be gearing up to use the Parliament Act to force the legislation through and yesterday the government denied reports it was considering dropping attempts to push the legislation through, saying the position had not changed.
The prime minister's official spokesman said: "Pushing ahead with the 42 days legislation is the right thing to do, given that the House of Commons has expressed its will."
Yesterday, the Tories announced only a limited reshuffle, appointing rising star Greg Clark to their front bench to shadow Ed Miliband at the newly created Department for Climate Change and the Environment.

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