Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 17:48 UK

PM hits back over leadership talk

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown has urged unity ahead of the Labour conference in Manchester

Gordon Brown has struck a defiant note ahead of this weekend's Labour Party conference in Manchester.

He urged Labour MPs to focus on core values and said "we can come through this difficult time".

He told Sky News he would not be forced out by rebels saying leaders had to take "the rough with the smooth".

Mr Brown has arrived in Manchester for the party conference, as a survey of Labour members and supporters suggest the majority want him to stand down.

The e-mail survey of 788 party members and supporters, for grassroots website LabourHome, suggested 54% of them did not want Mr Brown to lead them into the next general election.

The prime minister's personal rating was also lower than almost every other member of his cabinet, the survey found.

'Decisive action'

Labour is thought likely to deflect rebel MPs' calls for a leadership challenge in Manchester by saying it would be a self-indulgent distraction at at time of economic crisis.

Ministers are also expected to stress Gordon Brown's experience at handling the economy.

Harriet Harman criticised MPs for making an "error of judgement"

Mr Brown, who earlier met Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in Downing Street, stressed the "decisive action" the government had taken over the rescue of mortgage lending giant HBOS by Lloyds TSB.

He told a joint press conference in Downing Street he is now pushing for co-ordinated international action to regulate the financial markets.

"One thing is absolutely clear - we will do everything in our power to ensure the stability of the system," he told reporters.

'Further resignations'

In the past week, Mr Brown has faced protests by backbench Labour MPs and junior members of his government calling for a leadership contest, culminating with the resignation of Scottish Office minister David Cairns.

And he was warned on Thursday that he may face further resignations at the party conference.

Ministerial aide Roberta Blackman-Woods accused the 12 MPs who have spoken out against his leadership in recent days of trying to "destabilise" the government and urged them to stop.

I don't think there is going to be a leadership election, I don't think there should be a leadership election
Harriet Harman
Labour deputy leader

But she told the BBC: "It may be that there will be other resignations."

But in an interview with Sky News to be broadcast on Friday, Mr Brown dismissed talk of a leadership contest.

He said: "I am not going to be diverted by a few people making complaints. That is the stuff of politics. I get on with the business of government.'

"You go through periods. Sometimes you are popular, sometimes people resent the decisions you make and sometimes people are disappointed.

"You always get that. You take the rough with the smooth.''

'Error of judgement'

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman rallied strongly to Mr Brown in an appearance on BBC One's Question Time.

In a marked change of tone from some of her Cabinet colleagues, who have been saying they understood MPs' concerns, she said she thought the rebels had made an "error of judgement" in calling for a contest.

Ms Harman said: "I think if people are worried about their job or worried about their savings, the idea that we say our priority is to have an internal leadership election, I think people would think that was completely wrong.

Whoever is leader, we've got to think how we put the band back together
Jon Cruddas
Labour backbencher

"So I know what they're saying and I think that they are making an error of judgement."

She added: "I don't think there is going to be a leadership election, I don't think there should be a leadership election.

"I don't want any of my colleagues to have to start engaging in discussion about a hypothetical leadership election which is not going to happen, so I'm not going to start."

And influential Labour backbencher Jon Cruddas, who turned down a job offer from Mr Brown last year after narrowly missing out on the Labour deputy leadership, said rebels were "poisoning the well" and that voters would not understand their preoccupation with electing another leader.

He also suggested that he may be ready to join Mr Brown's administration in any reshuffle.

He told the Times: "It's all hands to the pump now. A year ago, I said my campaign wasn't about a job in government and I felt you had to carry that through. My instinct is not oppositional. Whoever is leader, we've got to think how we put the band back together."

In an eve-of-conference letter to Labour MPs, Mr Brown urged them to "restate the case for our party and values".

He said voters needed to see the choice at the next election was between "a Conservative party which still believes in helping the few and not the many and a Labour party which believes in fairness and opportunity for all and has the policies to deliver them".

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