Alarm bells tolled in the febrile Labour Party with the news that leading Blairites, including Tessa Jowell, Peter Mandelson and Anji Hunter had gathered at Tony Blair’s £4 million, Grade I listed, manor house in Buckinghamshire.
The Brown camp reportedly believed that plotting to oust Gordon Brown was the main course at the barbecue. But a spokesman for Blair said it was a staff party. “Some senior Labour MPs believed that the Blairites are plotting because they keep having parties. You see it all the time now,” the spokesman said.
However, there were not many takers for this explanation. It appeared to be more than that as senior MPs, ministers and former Downing Street advisers descended in Wotton Underwood, the former home of the actor Sir John Gielgud.
Guests mingled in the ornamental gardens, but sources close to Brown told the Sunday Telegraph that they had been tipped off about the party and were suspicious about its timing, at the end of a week in which Brown has suffered sustained attacks including from the former home secretary Charles Clarke.
The gathering also came after a poll showed that Blair was the only senior figure in the Labour Party who could revive its fortunes. A known commentator said that if the word ‘Blairite’ was considered perilous, there was little hope for the Labour Party at the general election.
Brown meanwhile continues to face more mutinies from his party MPs. The Labour MP Frank Field is set to launch a report calling for a limit to be placed on the number of people permitted to live in Britain.
His plan is to send back all those who came from non-EU countries, like India, on four-year work visas a the end of the entry permit. Thus far, most were given permanent residency. His argument is that lower-paid British workers have borne the cost of an unprecedented wave of immigration, with access to good schools, hospitals and housing all put at risk.