Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 16:23 UK

Miliband claims 'divide Labour'

John Prescott
Mr Prescott made the claims in his internet blog

Former deputy prime minster John Prescott has accused Foreign Secretary David Miliband of "feeding disunity".

Mr Miliband told the Guardian that he considered resigning when cabinet colleague James Purnell left.

But Mr Prescott said Mr Miliband's motives should be questioned as his comments were made just as the party is "pulling together and fighting back".

Earlier, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said there could be further leadership challenges to Gordon Brown.

Meanwhile, Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman, and senior backbencher Jon Cruddas, have both called for the focus to shift away from the leadership debate.

What we've got is leading figures across the cabinet, supporting the prime minister, helping the country face these very difficult challenges
Harriet Harman
Labour deputy leader

Writing on his internet blog, Mr Prescott said: "The Guardian interview [with Miliband] feeds that disunity and is a breeding ground for further challenges...

"Yet again we have to question his motive. Why make a statement like this just when the party is pulling together and fighting back, especially after the political cabinet yesterday?"

He added: "I agree with David that we have the fight of our life on our hands to save this government. But David, these actions do not help. They create uncertainty and doubt.

"So can I repeat to him and others: stop complaining and get campaigning."

Mr Prescott said his suspicions were heightened when he saw Mr Miliband in an "intense discussion" with former Labour cabinet minister, Alan Milburn.

Planning

In the Guardian interview, Mr Miliband said he discussed his decision about whether to resign with Lord Mandelson.

The foreign secretary said: "I'd made my decision on Thursday... sometimes you can make your decisions with great planning and calculation and sometimes you have to make them rather more quickly."

Meanwhile Lord Mandelson, who was last week given the additional title of first secretary of state, said he would not "lose any sleep" over the threat posed by those Labour MPs who opposed Mr Brown's leadership of the party.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "There's a small group who keep coming back... they wouldn't have voted for him in the first place."

In the interview he acknowledged that a string of ministerial resignations, including that of the former Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell, caused "a serious ruction".

But he praised Gordon Brown's leadership, saying: "I couldn't work for somebody as I do for Gordon if I didn't believe in them and respect them."

Harriet Harman said she did not believe a challenge to Gordon Brown's leadership was relevant, calling on the party to focus on leading the country through difficult economic times.

She rejected suggestions that the business secretary had become deputy prime minister in all but name.

Party direction

Ms Harman said: "We haven't got a deputy prime minister. What we've got is leading figures across the cabinet, supporting the prime minister, helping the country face these very difficult challenges.

"And certainly the business secretary has got to be at the heart of things and I think that's absolutely right."

Senior Labour backbencher Jon Cruddas said the issue concerning leadership was not about who was in charge but about the direction of the party.

He said: "It is not about left and right, it is about policy or no policy".

Mr Cruddas suggested it was for the party "to show we have the capacity to change".



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