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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Brown fights back against critics
Andrew Marr, Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown said he would welcome a leadership contest

Gordon Brown has begun a fightback against his critics by insisting he had nothing to do with an attempt to unseat Tony Blair as prime minister.

In an interview for the BBC's Sunday AM, Mr Brown said he had told anyone who had asked him that it was for Mr Blair to decide when he stepped down.

The chancellor said he would welcome a leadership contest.

Mr Blair later said he "accepted the assurances" when asked if he believed Mr Brown had not tried to unseat him.

In the BBC interview, Mr Brown swept aside claims he lacked the ability to get on with other ministers.

He insisted he was a "team player" but said chancellors sometimes had to "say no" to other ministers in the interests of the country.

There are real dangers for the chancellor's enemies in this strategy

Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke reignited the leadership controversy on Friday when he said Mr Brown had been "absolutely stupid" to be photographed grinning broadly as he left talks with Mr Blair last week.

The photos prompted speculation he had done a deal with the prime minister over his departure date.

But in the interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr he said: "I was actually smiling, talking to one of my colleagues about my new baby... It was nothing to do with politics."

Mr Brown denied the pair had argued and said they had been talking about the "business of government".

Gordon Brown
The idea that Gordon Brown is very relaxed about when Tony Blair leaves office doesn't really wash
William Hague
Shadow foreign secretary

Mr Blair was asked during a visit to the Palestinian capital Ramallah whether he was "100% convinced" that Mr Brown had no part in plots to unseat him.

He responded: "Of course I accept the assurances that have been given."

'Ill advised'

Mr Brown restated his readiness for a leadership contest and determination to lead a "government of all the talents" in his Sunday AM programme interview.

He said he had not been aware of the letter by Labour MPs calling for Mr Blair to stand down before it was made public and would have said it was "ill advised" if he had been consulted about the letter.

It is good for the party if there is a leadership election
Gordon Brown

It has emerged that the minister who signed the letter and then resigned, Tom Watson, visited Mr Brown while on holiday in Scotland.

But Mr Watson says he just dropped in to leave a present for Mr Brown's new baby and did not discuss the letter at all.

Mr Brown said he would have no problem with any of his Cabinet colleagues challenging him for the top job.

"It's good for the party if there is an election," he said.

But shadow foreign secretary William Hague said Mr Brown was a source of instability in government.

He told Sunday AM: "The idea that Gordon Brown is very relaxed about when Tony Blair leaves office, has no idea what his friends have been doing this week, gets on famously well with everybody else in the cabinet, it doesn't really wash, I'm afraid."


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