Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 14:23 UK

Harman: Labour focused on economy

Harriet Harman backs Gordon Brown as Labour Party leader

Labour is focusing on leading the country, not plotting against Prime Minister Gordon Brown, deputy leader Harriet Harman has insisted.

Britain was lucky to have Mr Brown at the helm during the present economic difficulties, Ms Harman told the BBC.

It would be wrong to turn it into a political crisis, she added.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said Labour was united on policy but shadow foreign secretary William Hague said it had "lost the capacity to govern".

The BBC has reported that some senior Labour Party figures, including former ministers, are considering possible options for unseating Mr Brown.

And numerous reports of plotting in the party following the by-election defeat at Glasgow East early on Friday have appeared in the press.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Ms Harman said she was not aware of any plotting at the Labour policy forum in Coventry.

'Phone Gordon'

She said: "At the conference this weekend that we've been having, I have to say that people's focus has not been on trying to create a political crisis out of an economic problem.

"People have been very focused on looking at what the government is doing at the moment in our policies, in terms of employment and public services and also looking to the future."

"That is absolutely, honestly the situation as I can describe what's been happening this weekend."

Gordon Brown's experience as chancellor at the Treasury meant he was the best person the lead the country through the current economic problems, she added.

"You know, people ring up Gordon Brown to get advice from all around the world on economic circumstances.

William Hague on Gordon Brown's 'failed' government

"He is well respected, and therefore well placed to precipitate the international action we need, as well as take the action we need here at home."

Justice Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC he had no plans to mount a leadership bid, despite reports an ally is canvassing support.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls told the BBC's The World This Weekend it was a testing time for the government but the party was united on a positive programme for the future.

"The thing we have to show is the strength, the discipline, the backbone as a party to do what the public wants, which is not to turn in on ourselves as Jack Straw warned against, but to show on the big issues - whether it's energy prices, the economy, people's concerns about public services - we can deliver.

"That's our challenge and I actually think we are meeting that test."

He added anonymous briefings in the press were not to be taken seriously and insisted the party could win the next election.

Mr Hague said Labour was "increasingly losing the authority to govern.

"It's now been defeated in elections in every part of the country and I think they have come to the point where the best thing they could do is call a general election and let a proper government take charge," he added.

BBC political correspondent Vicky Young said there was currently no agreement between the plotters over how Mr Brown should go or what should replace him.

"That should be crumb of comfort for him, there's no one coming forward with another agenda," she said.




SEE ALSO
Straw backs Brown to remain as PM
27 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Brown dismisses resignation calls
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Labour rebels told to back down
26 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Brown under fire as allies rally
25 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Brown seeks Labour morale boost
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PM 'must face leader challenge'
25 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
SNP stuns Labour in Glasgow East
25 Jul 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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