Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Sunday, 1 March 2009

Labour leadership talk dismissed

Harman denies preparing for a leadership battle after the next election

Harriet Harman has said reports that she and other senior colleagues are positioning themselves for a future leadership battle are unfounded.

The deputy Labour leader said she was "loyal" to Gordon Brown and there was not a "shred of truth" in reports she was already planning for the future.

Such talk was based on the false idea that Labour thought it could not win the next election, she told the BBC.

The prime minister has described recent leadership speculation as "gossip".

'Fight to win'

Mr Brown insists he is focused on dealing with the recession and will travel to the US next week to discuss radical reform of the international financial system with President Obama.

But with Labour trailing the Conservatives in the polls, reports last month that some Cabinet ministers were considering their options in the event of the party losing office were seen as damaging.

Discussion about a leadership challenge is based on the assumption that we are going to lose the next election
Harriet Harman

The speculation lead communities secretary Hazel Blears to tell the Cabinet to "get a grip" and focus on the pressing economic problems facing the country.

Ms Harman dismissed suggestions that she was "jockeying" for position and had already decided to stand for the leadership should Gordon Brown stand down.

She told the BBC's Andrew Marr show that there was "not a shred nor iota of truth" about such claims.

"I am very proud to be Gordon Brown's loyal deputy and that is what I am," she said.

"Discussion about a leadership challenge is based on the assumption that we are going to lose the next election.

"We are, at the moment, dealing with people's concerns and that is what our big challenge is.

"When it comes to the next election, we will be fighting it and fighting to win it."

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