Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Sunday, 7 September 2008 12:59 UK

Cameron: Back Brown or sack him

Ed Balls says the prime minister does not need to change

Conservative party leader David Cameron has called on Labour to either support or drop Gordon Brown as leader.

"Either back the guy or sack the guy," he told the Sunday Telegraph. He also raised Mr Brown's failure to discipline foreign secretary David Miliband.

Mr Miliband had written an article which many read as an attempt to place himself as a future Labour leader.

But Schools Secretary Ed Balls told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show there was no reason for Mr Brown to stand aside.

'Unelected PM'

In the interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cameron said that if Labour did get rid of Gordon Brown then it would have to call a general election.

"It would be quite outrageous to have two unelected PMs foisted on us one after the other," Mr Cameron said.

"So I say to the Labour Party, the foreign secretary and everyone included - make up your mind - back the guy or sack the guy.

"Behaving as you are for the moment is bad for the country."

The Tory leader also said that the government's scheme to offer a stamp duty holiday for a year on home sales worth less than 175,000 was a "short-term popularity package for Gordon Brown".

He revealed that his party's election planning committee was now in operation. This was in case Mr Brown was removed "within weeks", and a snap election was called by his successor.

Brown 'doing well'

However Mr Balls defended his leader for "doing well in a really, really difficult time."

Asked if Mr Brown should stand down to give Labour a better chance of winning the next general election, he replied: "Of course I don't."

He said that leaders around the world were having a difficult time because of the state of the economy.

"But things can change fast," he added.

Mr Balls said Britain needed a "tough , resilient and determined" leader, who had had experience, and who "would not be pushed around on a daily basis by the media."

Mr Brown would do "the right thing by the British people on the economy and jobs" he said.

Election lessons

Rather than change leader Mr Balls said Labour needed to show "determination and steel and unity" and said the next general election was not lost.

Previous prime ministers Tony Blair, John Major and Margaret Thatcher had been behind in the polls in 2004, 1991 and 1986 and had managed to win general elections in the following years, he added.

"They stuck to their nerve and stuck to the long term and came back to win and we can do the same," said Mr Balls, who added that Labour needed to "take the gloves off and take the fight to the Conservatives".

He also said there was no reason why the UK economy could not bounce back over the next 18 months.

'Economic cycle'

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron has also hinted at possible tax cuts under a Conservative government.

He said it was right for those who "put their backs into the British economy" to be rewarded in the form of tax cuts.

Asked about his tax policy, Mr Cameron told the Sunday Telegraph: "It's an approach over an economic cycle and what it means is, at the end of the cycle, the state will be taking a lower share of national income in taxes."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is to use next week's annual party conference to draw attention to his pledge to cut 4p from the basic rate of income tax and cut state spending by 20bn.

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