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UK PM survives revolt

Ministers rallied round embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday after he faced down a leadership challenge, but the failed coup dealt him a new blow months ahead of elections.

world Updated: Jan 08, 2010 00:51 IST

Ministers rallied round embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday after he faced down a leadership challenge, but the failed coup dealt him a new blow months ahead of elections.

In a deeply embarrassing challenge to his already-weakened authority, ex ministers Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt called on Wednesday for a ballot of ruling Labour Party lawmakers on whether Brown should remain their leader.

“It is something we could have easily done without,” admitted Justice Secretary Jack Straw, but insisted: “I think it will actually have the effect of bringing people behind the leadership even more.”

Brown, lagging around 10 points behind the main opposition Conservatives in the polls and expected to lose power this year, has faced repeated rumours of a threat to his struggling leadership since succeeding Tony Blair in June 2007.

British newspapers said on Thursday that Brown appeared to have seen off the latest attempt to unseat him, despite receiving only “lukewarm” public backing from some of his key Cabinet ministers.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband — who reportedly considered standing against Brown in 2008 — took seven hours to issue a statement which failed to mention Brown by name. It said: “I am working closely with the prime minister on foreign policy issues and support the re-election campaign for a Labour government that he is leading.”