Page last updated at 08:57 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 09:57 UK

Blears denies criticism of Brown

Hazel Blears
Hazel Blears says traditional campaigning methods remain the best

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has insisted Gordon Brown has her support, after saying ministers had shown a "lamentable" failure to communicate.

In an article for The Observer, Ms Blears said the public did not believe many government policy announcements.

But Ms Blears later stressed she was not criticising his leadership.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson told the BBC that Mr Brown was "a man for these times" and could do "a lot better" as prime minister than anyone else.

Ms Blears' article comes amid other comments on the prime minister's performance over issues such as Gurkha settlement rights and MPs' expenses and opposition claims his authority has been fatally undermined.

'Collective'

In a statement, Ms Blears said: "Any suggestion that I intended what I wrote as criticism of him or his leadership is completely wrong.

"I fully support the collective decisions we take as a government.

"My article simply calls for the Labour Party to hit the streets campaigning against the Tories in the forthcoming local and European elections."

Mr Brown has launched an online version of Prime Minister's Questions, pledging to respond to videoclip questions submitted via the Downing Street YouTube website.

Labour ministers have a collective responsibility for the government's lamentable failure to get our message across
Hazel Blears

In the article, Mrs Blears suggests leaving "slick presentation and clever soundbites" to the Conservatives.

"Promote your message via YouTube if you want to. But it is no substitute for knocking on doors or setting up a stall in the town centre," she wrote.

"We need to have a relationship with the voters based on shared instincts and emotions.

"We need to start showing we understand the instincts, fears, hopes and emotions of the broad mass of British people."

Commons defeat

Ms Blears also commented on the government's handling of the issue surrounding the Gurkhas, saying it put itself "on the wrong side of the British sense of fair play, and no party can stay there for long without dire consequences".

The government suffered a shock defeat in the Commons on Wednesday over its policy of restricting the right of many former Gurkhas to settle in the UK.

MPs voted by 267 to 246 for a Lib Dem motion offering all Gurkhas equal right of residence, with the Tories and 27 Labour rebels backing it.

Ms Blears says that Mr Brown will lead the party into the next election, but she also says that the government must appear more "human" if it is to defeat the Tories.

"Labour ministers have a collective responsibility for the government's lamentable failure to get our message across," she says.

"Whatever the problems of the recession, the answer is not more government documents or big speeches."

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott had earlier rebuked Labour politicians who criticised the prime minister.

Mr Prescott said members should stop complaining and get behind the party.



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