Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Brown rejects leadership 'gossip'

Gordon Brown: "I want to get on with the job I'm doing"

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has dismissed as "gossip" reports he could step down to take up a new role as global financial regulator.

Mr Brown told his monthly press conference there was "no possibility of a job called global regulator".

He said his priority was to help people through the recession.

The Guardian reported earlier this week that Mr Brown was being touted as a global regulator - prompting a flurry of Labour leadership speculation.

Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley wrote that German chancellor Angela Merkel was pushing for Mr Brown to leave Downing Street to head a new global financial regulation body.

The story was reported by political blogs to have been planted by Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, as part of a campaign to destabilise Mr Brown, but this was firmly denied by Downing Street, which described it as "utter nonsense".

'Right decisions'

The prime minister's official spokesman said that, apart from anything else, there was no suggestion that a single global regulator would be created and the government had been pushing instead for closer cooperation between national regulators.

Several newspapers report that Commons leader Ms Harman is "positioning" to take over when Mr Brown steps down.

But Skills Secretary John Denham told the BBC the cabinet was more concerned with taking the "right decisions" to deal with the economy.

The Daily Telegraph reports Ms Harman, who saw off five rivals to win Labour's deputy leadership contest, has been accused by fellow ministers of trying to "muscle in" on the G20 summit of world leaders in London in April by staging an international women's conference at the same time.

The newspaper says Ms Harman's cabinet colleagues have grown "exasperated" by her behaviour.

It comes after reports Ms Harman launched an outspoken attack on City bonuses at a cabinet meeting, which her critics have interpreted as an attempt to woo left-wingers ahead of a possible leadership bid when Mr Brown steps down.

The Independent quotes a minister as saying Ms Harman "needs to be reined in".

Poll lead

Meanwhile, an Ipsos/Mori poll suggests the Conservatives have opened up a 20-point lead over Labour.

John Denham
It's not surprising that people are looking critically at the government at the moment
John Denham, Labour

Asked on BBC 5 Live what he would say to any cabinet colleagues with leadership ambitions, John Denham said: "I don't give any credence to any of these stories."

He added that he had "not heard any discussion at all" about the subject.

Mr Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, went on: "What the cabinet believes - it's not a message to cabinet members - is that on a whole series of issues over the last 18 months, from the rescuing of Northern Rock to the intervention in the banking industry, to expanding our economy, we've been taking the right decisions.

"Now, these are terribly difficult times."

Mr Denham said he was "not going to comment even" on the Sun's quoting of a "cabinet figure" saying there was a feeling that Ms Harman was "out of control" and "putting a lot of noses out of joint".

On the economic crisis, he added: "It's not surprising that people are looking critically at the government at the moment. But, come an election, people are going to say: who is making the right choices for this country at the right time.

"We may not have felt that everything suddenly bounced back to the way it was before.

"It's going to be a long, difficult period ahead of us. But I think that we are taking the right choices and that's what we should continue to do - and to make sure there's really help there for families and businesses through a very difficult world recession."

The Ipsos/Mori poll of 1,001 adults puts the Tories on 48%, Labour on 28% and the Lib Dems on 17%.

The survey, conducted over the weekend among those certain to vote, suggests the Tories' lead over Labour has extended by six points since the company last surveyed intentions in January.

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