Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 17:49 UK

Brown reaches first year at No 10

The highs and lows of Gordon Brown's leadership

Gordon Brown has tried to shrug off a by-election drubbing as he marks his first year as prime minister.

Downing Street said it was "business as usual" for the prime minister as he visited a school in Manchester.

Asked about the Henley by-election result, which saw Labour slump to fifth place, Mr Brown said "by-elections come and by-elections go".

It comes as Labour's former chief fundraiser Lord Levy said the party should consider replacing him.

Asked if Mr Brown should go, in an interview with BBC Two's Newsnight, he said: "That's for members of the Labour Party to decide."

Pressed further, he says: "I certainly, seeing the polls, would have to say that this is something that needs to be very seriously considered.

'Listen' pledge

But he adds: "I cannot see that there is any great leader of the Labour Party who could replace him."

Mr Brown spent the day in Manchester visiting schools and community support officers and setting out what aides called a "bold vision for transforming England's public services".

Asked for his reaction to the Henley by-election, he said he would "listen to what people say" but would concentrate on dealing with problems such as high petrol, energy and food bills.

Gordon Brown's reaction to the Henley result

"It's my job to make sure that I can do more to help people's standard of living be improved," he added.

Labour polled just 1,066 votes in the Henley by-election, which saw Tory candidate John Howell elected with a majority of 10,116.

Mr Brown was also faced with another set of grim opinion poll findings, which suggest 61% of voters think he is a liability to Labour, compared to 21% when he came to power.

The YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph suggested Labour currently trails the Tories by 18 points, although it has closed the gap by five points in the past month.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier declined to offer any advice to Mr Brown in the light of his recent troubles, saying he did not want to make things more difficult for his successor.

Blair 'respect'

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I've done this job, I did it for 10 years. It's an honour and a privilege to do it but believe you me, it's an extremely difficult and tough job."

He said he was 100% supportive of Mr Brown, adding: "I've got the utmost respect for someone who does [the job] because I know how hard it is to do."

60% against more private involvement in health and education
25% think Brown should have called election last autumn
78% back Brown to lead Labour into the next election
Source: BBC survey of 135 local Labour Party chairmen

And former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett told the BBC it was "madness" to suggest the party needs a new leader.

"Gordon Brown is one of the most brilliant politicians of this or any generation, if he can't steer us through this, no-one can," she said.

A BBC survey of local Labour Party chairmen and women, meanwhile, suggests most back Mr Brown to lead the party into the next election, but there is unhappiness with the direction he is taking the party on public services.

And 25% of the 135 chairmen and women surveyed thought Mr Brown should have held an election last Autumn.

The survey - which contacted 38% of local Labour Party leaders - found 70 of them thought the party had become too close to big business.

Some 89 of the 135 chairmen and women thought Mr Brown was not right to encourage more private investment in the NHS.

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell later told BBC 4's The World At One: "The Labour Party will always tend to be further to the left than a Labour government.

"A New Labour government has to govern from the centre and that means measuring the impact and the benefits of change in terms of what is achieved rather than the old way of thinking about this, which is that public is good and private is bad."

'Unlucky prime minister'

But former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown - who was last year offered the Cabinet post of Northern Ireland secretary by Mr Brown - said he doubted the prime minister could survive.

On this unhappy anniversary friends will mutter, foes will shout about the prime minister's misjudgements
Nick Robinson
BBC political editor

He told Straight Talk with Andrew Neil on BBC News: "I have made some mistakes in my life but viewed out from a year ago, it does not seem to me that my decision to decline Mr Brown's kind invitation to join his government was one of them.

"Can he survive? Well, Margaret Thatcher was more unpopular than him but does he, you know? She had the personality, the opportunity and the luck.

"He's an unlucky prime minister, he hasn't got a great personality and I can't see what the opportunity is."

Labour fifth as Tories win Henley
27 Jun 08 |  UK Politics
Gordon Brown's first year as PM
26 Jun 08 |  Newsnight
Gordon Brown's first year
27 Jun 08 |  Today

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