Brown seeks to quell revolt after elections

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is looking to make popular concessions in a bid to win back support for his beleaguered Labour government after its drubbing in last week’s local elections, media reports said on Monday.

He is considering ditching the rubbish bin tax, delaying the two pence-a-litre fuel duty rise in October, expanding shared equity schemes to boost the housing market and increasing pressure on supermarkets to reign in rising food prices, newspapers said.

Labour ministers and backbenchers continued to voice support for the prime minister despite the worst local election results for the party in 40 years, but some unnamed sources gave him between two weeks and a year to turn the situation around.

Brown’s Labour Party faces another test later in the month when a by-election is held in Crewe and Nantwich.

The Daily Telegraph said some ministers and senior Labour figures privately say a defeat by opposition Conservatives could persuade even previously loyal allies to take the risk of trying to remove Brown.

But the Times said ministers believed Brown, who has been in power for less than a year, should be given time to fight back.

Failure to improve the party’s ratings during the next 12 months, though, could make his position untenable, the Times reported one anonymous minister as saying.

Brown launched his fight back on Sunday, admitting he had made mistakes but insisting his party could recover to win the next parliamentary election.

Brown pinned the blame for the dismal election results on the weakening economy and voters’ concerns over rising food and energy prices and a credit squeeze that has sparked fears of a slump in the housing market.

Brown said he felt voters’ “hurt” over price rises but believed he was the man to lead the party through the storm.

Labour, which has governed for 11 years, lost hundreds of council seats in its worst local election performance on record. The Conservatives ousted Labour’s long-serving Ken Livingstone as mayor of London, the most powerful elected post they have held for years.

Labour’s share of the vote plunged to 24%, 20 points behind the Conservatives, who would soar to a landslide victory if they could repeat that result at the next parliamentary election, which Brown must call by mid-2010.

Ministers continued to show public support for Brown on Monday, preferring to blame the economy for Labour’s woes.

“If you look at what’s actually affecting the lives of real people then it is much more likely that can be attributed to a sense of specific concern that people have about their economic future,” International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander told BBC radio.

“There are genuine anxieties at this stage which are being expressed in concern and fear which we need to address and we are determined to address.” - Reuters


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