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Rebel MPs try to oust floundering British PM

REBEL Labour Party Members of Parliament tried to win support yesterday for an attempt to oust British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was struggling to retain power after a scandal over legislators' expenses prompted voter outrage and the chaotic resignation of senior ministers.

As Brown's Labour Party braced for catastrophic results from elections for European and town hall assemblies, which were held yesterday, rank-and-file legislators were being canvassed to offer backing to a direct call on Brown to quit - the most serious challenge to his authority since he replaced Tony Blair in June 2007, following a similar revolt in Labour's ranks.

Brown's chief whip Nick Brown - in charge of party discipline - said yesterday that dissidents were actively working on a plan to topple the leader. He accused veterans loyal to Blair and a small group of mavericks of leading the plot.

A draft text of an e-mail by rebel legislators that has been leaked to the British media tells Brown: "You can best serve the Labour Party and the country by stepping down."

No Labour lawmakers have said publicly that they are involved in organizing or supporting the plot.

Famously stubborn, Brown has already said he won't step down voluntarily.

Opposition legislators and analysts say a furor over lawmakers' allowances has exposed Brown's failings.

Britain's main opposition Conservative Party David Cameron has surged ahead in opinion polls and is considered all but certain to lead his party back to government for the first time since 1997.

Brown must call a national election before June 2010.

Brown's cabinet is in tatters after a string of resignations. Jacqui Smith, Britain's first female interior minister, insisted "there is no conspiracy here" as she confirmed her intention to quit on Tuesday. Communities Minister Hazel Blears and Children's Minister Beverly Hughes also said this week they would leave the Cabinet, and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced she would not stand at the next election.

Commentators noted that the string of female resignations were a far cry from the early days of the Blair government, when Labour swept to power in 1997 with 101 female MPs, dubbed the "Blair babes," and promises of readdressing the gender imbalances in the British parliament.


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