Page last updated at 08:57 GMT, Saturday, 6 June 2009 09:57 UK

Brown waits on reshuffle response

"If I didn't think I was the right person, leading the right team, I would not be standing here."

Gordon Brown is waiting to see whether his limited cabinet reshuffle has served to quell unrest among Labour MPs after a tumultuous week for the party.

The prime minister responded to a string of ministerial resignations and a "painful" English elections drubbing by vowing: "I will not walk away."

Labour is bracing itself for Sunday's European election results.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said he hoped Labour activists would give MPs the message to "rally round" Mr Brown.

Mr Bradshaw, promoted in the reshuffle, said the PM was the best man to lead the UK during the current economic crisis.

And veteran Labour MP Tony Wright told BBC Radio 4's Today: "People are saying to us 'stop the infighting, stop the caballing, stop the organising against the leadership'."

He added that although Mr Brown might be a "clunky communicator" he was "a towering figure who has brought the world through the worst financial crisis for 60 years".

Colleagues have also been defending Mr Brown after departing Europe Minister Caroline Flint accused him of sexism.

CABINET RESHUFFLE
NEW JOBS:
Alan Johnson - Home secretary
Andy Burnham - Health
Yvette Cooper - Work and pensions
Bob Ainsworth - Defence
John Denham - Communities
Liam Byrne - Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Ben Bradshaw - Culture
Lord Adonis - Transport
Peter Hain - Welsh Office
Glenys Kinnock - Europe (non-Cabinet post)
Sir Alan Sugar - Enterprise tsar (non-Cabinet post)
QUITTING:
John Hutton
James Purnell
Jacqui Smith
Hazel Blears
Geoff Hoon
Paul Murphy
Caroline Flint(Minister of State)
Tony McNulty(Minister of State)
Margaret Beckett(Minister of State)

In her resignation letter, Ms Flint said the prime minister had created a "two-tier" cabinet, with several of the women serving as "little more than female window dressing".

Peter Hain, who returned to his former role as Welsh secretary, said: "We have more women in senior positions in the cabinet now... than ever before in Britain's history."

Loyalist backbencher Geraldine Smith, who represents Morecambe and Lunesdale, said Ms Flint had "a bit of a strop" because she had not been offered the promotion she expected.

Ms Flint, the MP for Don Valley in South Yorkshire, had appeared on television a day earlier to back Mr Brown.

That was before James Purnell resigned as work and pensions secretary with a direct challenge to Mr Brown to step down.

While Geoff Hoon and John Hutton also walked out on their respective transport and defence jobs, they did not echo Mr Purnell's call.

Even so, Mr Brown still had to field questions about his future when he revealed his new-look cabinet at a press conference.

"If I didn't think I was the right person to lead these challenges I would not be standing here," he said.

"I have faith in doing my duty... I believe in never walking away in difficult times."

He said the current political crisis, fuelled by the Westminster expenses scandal, was "a test of everyone's nerve - mine, the government's, the country's".

Mr Brown defended Chancellor Alistair Darling as a "very good personal friend" and said the idea that the pair were split over the economy was "ridiculous".

Alan Johnson, who has been touted as a potential alternative to lead the party, said he backed Mr Brown "to the hilt" and was "really pleased" to be made home secretary.

Caroline Flint
Several of the women attending Cabinet - myself included - have been treated by you as little more than female window dressing
Caroline Flint, former Europe minister

Mr Brown also chose to expand Lord Mandelson's business role, giving him responsibility for higher education and training and the title of First Secretary of State.

Commentators have described him as effectively deputy prime minister.

BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said Mr Brown had kept his would-be challengers "on side".

But he added: "The pressure on the prime minister is huge and the mood in the Labour party is demoralised and volatile."

Speculation about Mr Brown's future continued as Labour MP Ian Gibson said he was standing down to force a by-election in Norwich North adding that the prime minister's days were "close to being numbered".

Former arts minister Mark Fisher joined those calling on Mr Brown to go.

Labour lost control of its four remaining English county councils on Thursday, with BBC projections putting the party's share of the national vote at a general election at a record low of 23%.

Wyn Grant, professor of politics at the University of Warwick, said he expected the European election results to bring "more bad news" on Sunday.

Nick Robinson
Mr Brown has seen off the ministerial revolt and it is now up to backbench Labour MPs to decide whether they accept that verdict or conclude that their weakened leader should be finished off.

The Blairite former cabinet minister Stephen Byers said: "On Monday Labour MPs will be considering a very important question - is Gordon Brown a winner or is Gordon Brown a loser?"

For the Conservatives, shadow communities and local government secretary Caroline Spelman, told BBC Radio 4's Today: "What people want is a General Election. They want a fresh start. They want a leader who can lead.

"He may have shuffled the pack yesterday but I think some of the cards are a little on the dog-eared side."

Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said losing six cabinet ministers in three days had left the government in an "unbelievable shambles".

"This is an extraordinary situation when people are worried about their jobs, the economy, the state of their homes.

"We are getting no leadership from the government whatsoever," he said.

And, in a sign of the continuing febrile atmosphere Gordon Brown was forced to defend his expenses again over suggestions in the Daily Telegraph he claimed for electricity bills and service charges on two properties between 2005 and 2007.

A Number 10 spokesman insisted Mr Brown had complied with the rules at all times, a fact backed up by the Commons authorities, but he had agreed to repay about £180 "for the avoidance of doubt".

* There will be a Newsnight special: Brown on the Brink on BBC Two at 1930 BST on Saturday



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EUROPEAN ELECTION RESULTS

MEP Seats

  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
KEY STORIES
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BBC political editor Nick Robinson Nick Robinson
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