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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Brown under new pressure

The Sunday Times reports that the Prime Minister is under pressure to make further concessions in the row over the abolition of the 10p income tax band following Labour's disastrous showing in the local elections:

Cabinet ministers were yesterday engaged in a mass ring-round of panicking backbenchers to shore up Brown’s sinking support.

Many are openly voicing concern that Labour cannot win the next general election while Brown remains in charge.

The prime minister will face further assaults from Labour critics this week as MPs return from the bank-holiday break to take stock of the party’s electoral humiliation.

Frank Field, who led the successful revolt against abolition of the 10p income tax band, which penalised millions of low-paid workers, warned that Labour would now be defeated in this month’s by-election in Crewe and Nantwich unless Brown issued urgent clarification on the tax issue.

Two weeks ago Brown promised he would compensate groups who lost out from the tax changes, but failed to provide details of the new benefits package. The lack of a clear statement left core Labour supporters confused and worried, prompting many to stay at home or vote Tory last Thursday.

Now the Labour rebels are to renew the pressure on tax by putting down a Commons motion on Tuesday calling for Brown urgently to issue details of the compensation package for low earners.

Field, a former welfare minister, said: “I find it incomprehensible that he cannot get a few sentences put together saying,

‘I am going to move every muscle in my body to find ways of making the package as comprehensive as possible and every bit of it will be backdated to April 5’.”

Although many are prepared to let Brown continue in the top job it is likely that unless he puts this controversy to bed quickly and holds on in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election then there could be a serious challenge to his leadership.
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