Page last updated at 13:52 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Defiant Brown will 'keep going' even without majority

Gordon Brown
The general election is widely expected on 6 May

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has signalled that he will "keep going" as leader even if Labour fails to secure a majority at the general election.

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour if he would quit, Mr Brown said "I'll keep going" before being interrupted and asked the question again.

He replied: "I will keep going. I will keep going because I want a majority."

In response the Conservatives said: "The prospect of him going on even longer is truly terrifying."

"We are fighting this election to stop this country suffering five more years of Gordon Brown."

The election is widely expected to take place on 6 May and there has been growing speculation about a possible hung parliament - where no single party has a majority - after recent opinion polls.

'Comfortable with women'

The Times reported on Monday that ministers had said Mr Brown intended to resist pressure to step down swiftly as Labour leader in the event of an election defeat.

Asked, at the end of a wide-ranging half hour interview, whether he owed it to the Labour Party to stand aside if he did not secure a majority he said: "I think I owe it to people to continue and complete the work that we've started of taking this country out of the most difficult global financial recession.

"And to be honest, going around the country, I feel there's more to do to improve the health service, more to do to give people better opportunities, more to do for women on maternity pay and equal pay, more to do on the discriminations that still exist."

BBC political correspondent Norman Smith says some of Mr Brown's supporters fear that if he stood down too soon after a defeat, a victorious Conservative Party could call a second, snap election - in order to seek a bigger majority - at a time when Labour is distracted by a leadership battle.

Mr Brown has faced a number of challenges to his authority during his time as prime minister.

Most recently, in January, former cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon wrote to all Labour MPs asking them to support a call for a secret ballot on his leadership. But they failed to attract any significant support.

Former minister Geoffrey Robinson, the Labour MP for Coventry North West, said: "If we had another general election within the year, one would have thought that going to the country while the Labour Party conducts an election would be rather farcical."

He said "everyone" had "written off" Mr Brown during the financial crisis, adding that to fight on after a hung Parliament would be "a very considerable achievement".

Mr Robinson added that "the momentum" was with Labour and Mr Brown.

'Fight back'

Earlier in his Woman's Hour interview Mr Brown was asked about his attitude to working with women, following ex-Europe minister Caroline Flint's claim Mr Brown treated women in his Cabinet as "little more than female window-dressing".

Asked whether he was simply more comfortable around men than women, Mr Brown said: "No, I feel more comfortable with women, I've got to tell you. Right throughout my life I've worked very closely with the women who've worked with me.

"Some of the most senior people working with me are not only women, but extremely, extremely professional and competent women."

Mr Brown admitted that allegations he had bullied Downing Street staff were "damaging", but insisted that while he was "tough" and would "fight back if I am in difficulty", his office was "a family".

We don't know yet what savings we can get from cutting or keeping unemployment down
Gordon Brown

He was asked why he had chosen to take part in an interview with Piers Morgan last month in which he talked about matters in his personal life, including his marriage and the death of his daughter.

"I felt that how people understood me was being mediated by a number of newspapers that were presenting me in a way that's just not me.

"I felt that I should be prepared to do like any other person who's in politics and do interviews, open myself to any questions that people had.... and be prepared to show that nobody could be as one-dimensional as newspapers were presenting."

The PM said was also quizzed about his love of bananas, following reports that he ate up to nine a day.

Asked how many he ate each day, the PM replied: "I don't know, quite a few. I think they're pretty good for you... as an alternative to chocolate."

Frontline services

As well as his eating habits, Mr Brown discussed the issue of spending cuts, but said there was some uncertainty about future plans.

"We don't know yet what savings we can get from cutting or keeping unemployment down, but that runs into billions of pounds.

"If we have these savings, we can use them to fund departments. If we don't have these savings, it makes it more difficult."

He said hospitals, schools and policing would have their frontline budgets protected for at least the next two years.

Beyond that, he added: "I think you can be reasonably sure that the protection for health and education and policing will be continued."

Listen to the prime minister's interview in full on Radio 4's Woman's Hour here.

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