Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 17:31 UK

Prescott: Disunity kills parties

John Prescott
John Prescott was Tony Blair's deputy prime minister

Former deputy Labour leader John Prescott has said the party should get behind Gordon Brown - warning that "disunity kills" political parties.

Mr Prescott told the BBC people were worried about their jobs and quality of life - and all they heard from Labour were questions about the leadership.

He said that Gordon Brown was "the best man for that job" at a time of global crisis, adding "get behind your man".

Mr Prescott's comments come ahead of Labour's party conference.


Mr Prescott told Radio 4's Today: "The public is listening to Labour - all it hears it talking about is leadership.

"For God's sake, they are worried about their jobs, they are worried about the future. They want somebody who can handle global problems, and Gordon Brown is that man."

He said: "Disunity kills parties, whether it's Tories or Labour, and after 10 years it's amazing that we should be allowing a climate of opinion to undermine the kind of confidence in our party as to the role of a Labour Government.

"I think if there's disunity, any party, all parties lose - the evidence is absolutely clear."

Upbeat message

Mr Brown has sought to strike an upbeat note ahead of the conference in Manchester, writing in a policy document aimed at MPs and party members that "our ambitions for Britain run high".

In the document - entitled Winning the Fight For Britain's Future - Mr Brown warns against "talking Britain down all the time" and hits back at Tory leader David Cameron's claim that society is "broken".

I did not leak my name to the media... the general secretary or whoever leaked my name to the media

Barry Gardiner
Rebel Labour MP

He urges the party to be "proud but not satisfied" about its record in government and to "continue the work of reform".

But questions about his leadership continue and look set to dominate the opening of the conference on Saturday.

It is seen as a big test for Mr Brown as he seeks to reassert his authority over the party following a series of poor election and opinion poll figures.

About a dozen Labour MPs have called for a leadership challenge to Mr Brown - including Scotland Office minister David Cairns who resigned earlier this week.

Leak accusation

Three other government figures have lost their position after protesting at Mr Brown's performance - forestry envoy Barry Gardiner, junior whip Siobhain McDonagh and party vice-chair Joan Ryan.

Mr Gardiner suggested to BBC Radio 4's The World At One that his name had been leaked to the media by Labour Party officials or even general secretary Ray Collins, angered at his call for nomination papers.

He said: "I did not leak my name to the media... the general secretary - or whoever - leaked my name to the media."

But he said he did not regret speaking out against Mr Brown, adding: "Many, many other people feel as I do that there has been a failure of judgment, there has been a failure of leadership."

Left wing Labour MP, Alan Simpson, has meanwhile said Labour's Manchester conference will be Mr Brown's last as prime minister.

In an article to be published on Saturday morning, he says Mr Brown is "like Damien Hirst, trapped in formaldehyde, he lacks the qualities needed for a bold leap that would free him from his own goo".

Poll findings

Alastair Campbell, who was Tony Blair's press spokesman in Downing Street, has told the BBC that rebel MPs should "stop behaving like commentators, understand that they're in a political battle".

"I'm not pretending that with the economy as it is and with global conditions as they are, that that is good for the party of government," he told 5 Live.

"But I'd rather have Alistair Darling there, and I'd rather have Gordon Brown there, than Cameron and Osborne, about whom frankly the public know absolutely nothing."

The debate over Mr Brown's position comes amid continuing reports that some in the cabinet are unhappy with Mr Brown's performance, and as a new opinion poll suggested the Conservative lead was growing.

The Ipsos MORI survey put the Tories, among those certain to vote, on 52% - up four on last month - with Labour unchanged on 24% and the Liberal Democrats down four to 12%.

Among the public in general - not just those certain to vote - the Conservatives were on 45%, Labour 29% and the Lib Dems on 14%. Ipsos MORI questioned 1,017 British adults between September 12 and 14.

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