Related News

Home » World

Britain's Brown faces showdown with rebels

BRITAIN'S Prime Minister Gordon Brown heads into a key showdown today with rebel lawmakers still fighting for his job after his governing Labour Party received its worst results in 100 years in European and local elections.

Mutineers who seek Brown's ouster are poised to decide whether to mount an attempt to depose the struggling leader after he holds a meeting with his lawmakers at Britain's House of Commons.

Brown's Labour finished third in European election voting in Britain, while support for the party slumped to a record low in votes for town and city hall assemblies.

"The message is clear: we need a complete change of political direction," Labour lawmaker John McDonnell said of the worst results since 1910.

The results leave Labour, which has been in power since 1997 and won three successive national elections, mired in a wrenching debate over whether its best chance of survival lies with or without its current leader.

Brown tried to pre-empt the bad news with a hasty reshuffling of his Cabinet last week and a legislative program tightly focused on reviving the economy and cleaning up Britain's tainted political system - but his future remains in doubt.

A total of 10 ministers quit last week, undermining Brown's authority. He has been damaged by the election results and borne the brunt of criticism in a scandal over lawmakers' excessive expenses that has prompted widespread public anger.

If results announced in local and European elections were replicated at Britain's next national election, the country's main opposition Conservative Party would sweep to victory - winning back power for the first time since 1997.

Under British election law, Brown must call a national election until June 2010 and is considered almost certain to lose.

"I think we are moving moderately quickly toward the need for a change and that change may be a change in leadership," Charles Falconer, a House of Lords member and a Cabinet minister under Brown's predecessor Tony Blair, told the BBC.

Brown will meet scores of Labour lawmakers on Monday to discuss the party's election results. He is expected to seek their loyalty with a pledge to accelerate plans to hold an inquiry aimed at scrutinizing failures made during the Iraq war.

Immediately afterward, Caroline Flint, a minister who quit last week and attacked Brown's leadership, will hold a debate on Labour's future.

Nick Brown, Labour's chief whip, urged rebels to decide after the meeting with Brown whether to begin attempts to force him from office - or to pledge loyalty. Rebels need the backing of 71 of Labour's 350 lawmakers to trigger a leadership contest, which would likely take about three weeks.

For some, events recall the fall of former British leader Margaret Thatcher - who quit in 1990 after 11 years in power after she found herself unable to quell dissent in her Conservative Party.

Should Brown's critics force his ouster, any new leader - probably the affable Home Secretary Alan Johnson - would likely hold a national election by the summer, calculating that they would need a public mandate to have political credibility.

If plotters back down, Brown is likely to remain in post at least for another year - holding power until a June 2010 national election.

"If we don't take the right decision now that mood of unhappiness will continue. We will have a long lingering downward decline towards what I see at the moment as almost inevitable electoral defeat next year," said Nick Raynsford, a former minister and Brown critic.

The pressure on Brown has become increasingly evident in recent days - his voice was strained Friday as he announced details of his new Cabinet, while his fingernails were bitten down. He looked uncomfortable and pale Saturday at celebrations in France to mark the 65th anniversary of the World War II D-Day landings.

Jon Cruddas, a leftist Labour lawmaker who last year refused a job in Brown's Cabinet, has offered an unlikely source of support. He said deposing Brown would amount to electoral suicide.

"We're now less than a year away from the election," Cruddas wrote in an op-ed for the Sunday Mirror newspaper. "We have no more chances left. We either pull ourselves together, stake out what we stand for, or we will be gone."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend