Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 12:23 UK

Harman: 'I don't want to be PM'


Harriet Harman: 'I'm loyally supporting the leadership of Gordon Brown'

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has denied a report she would fight for the party leadership, as speculation grows over Gordon Brown's position.

She insisted the story was "simply not true" and under "no circumstances" would she be a candidate.

She told the BBC's Today programme: "I don't want to be prime minister and I don't want to be leader of the party."

The Daily Telegraph said Ms Harman told friends she would stand if backbenchers tried to force the PM from office.

Ms Harman said she intended to keep the promise she made to Labour members at the time of her election as deputy leader - that she would stand behind Mr Brown.

She added: "My ambition is to remain his loyal and supportive deputy."

Copy of the Daily Telegraph defaced by Harriet Harman
Ms Harman made her point on the BBC by defacing a newspaper report

But she refused to comment on criticism of the government by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.

On Sunday, Ms Blears condemned what she called the government's "lamentable" failure to communicate.

She wrote: "YouTube if you want to. But it's no substitute for knocking on doors or setting up a stall in the town centre."

But in a statement issued later, she said: "Any suggestion that I intended what I wrote as criticism of him [Mr Brown] or his leadership is completely wrong. I fully support the collective decisions we take."

Gurkha rights

Earlier, Ms Harman's spokeswoman said the Telegraph story - which suggested Ms Harman would refuse to stand aside for a "unity candidate" should Mr Brown move on - was "utter rubbish".

Any plotting in this period would be a treachery too far

It follows a week in which Mr Brown suffered his first serious Commons setback since 2007, losing a vote on the rights of Gurkhas to settle in the UK.

He also faced criticism of his handling of the reform of MPs' expenses - announced on Downing Street's YouTube site - and opinion polls showing Labour trailing the Conservatives.

Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said recent events made him "ashamed" to be a Labour MP.

BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue said speculation about the leadership was likely to continue as Labour MPs braced themselves for June's local and European elections.


Health Secretary Alan Johnson and Justice Secretary Jack Straw have since defended the prime minister's leadership.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn told GMTV that there would "absolutely not" be a leadership challenge, adding that Mr Brown was "a serious politician for serious times" who would lead the party at the next general election.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Lord Kinnock warned in-fighting risked handing seats to the BNP in June's European elections.

He said discussions of a possible leadership challenge to oust Mr Brown before a general election was "ludicrous and damaging".

"In order to maintain Labour advances... we have all got to get behind Gordon," he said.

Mr Brown will seek to take regain control of events on Tuesday when he is expected to deliver a major speech on education.

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