Pleading Brown survives PLP

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown

By Alex Stevenson

Key rebels have conceded Gordon Brown's passionate speech to the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) meeting means he will remain in Downing Street.

The prime minister, facing a crunch meeting which could have brought down his premiership, was told to resign by a number of backbenchers.

But the PLP came together against the dissidents to send a strong message of support for Mr Brown.

"I have my strengths, I have my weaknesses," the prime minister began with what aides called a "note of humility".

"There are some things I do well, some things not so well. I've learned you've got to keep learning all the time."

He followed this up with a "note of determination", continuing: "We solve the problems not by walking away but by facing it and doing something about it."

Journalists, thronging the crowded corridor outside the packed room where the PLP was meeting, received growing indications the meeting was going well for the the PM.

And when the doors finally opened, after the unusually long meeting which lasted well beyond 90 minutes, rebels admitted Mr Brown had done enough to survive.

"If he'd spoken with the same passion and conviction [in recent weeks] as he did then, we wouldn't have had this cock-up," Newport West MP Paul Flynn said.

Of the "handful" of plotters who wanted Mr Brown out former home secretary Charles Clarke was prominent. He spoke against the prime minister and was heard in silence - and without applause.

The "usual suspects" offered their opinions as well, but Mr Brown's arguments won through.

His call for unity was based on ideological lines, pointing out that he had not seen a resignation letter outlining differences of policy.

He said he would meet with MPs later this week and pressed the party to wait for the raft of major policy announcements to be deployed this week.

A number of Labour grandees were present including Neil Kinnock, Roy Hattersley, Margaret Beckett and David Blunkett. Many spoke of the bad old days of opposition, reminding those who had not been elected before of its horrors.

The "vast majority" of people who spoke were completely supportive, a spokesman said, and most of the throwaway comments shouted out to the waiting media appeared to reaffirm this.

"United we stand," was one's comment. Another spoke of its "very strongly anti-disunity" tone. One of the first out of the door summed it up: "I'm afraid your lust for blood will not be slaked."

Mr Brown chairs the first meeting of his newly reshuffled Cabinet tomorrow morning. For the first time in days he will be able to concentrate on his policies, not survival - as he lives to fight another day.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.