British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was bracing yesterday for the results of European elections expected to see his Labour party hammered, and which could deal a fatal blow to his fragile leadership.
Brown, already battling a deep recession and public anger over an expenses row, is fighting for his job after a torrid week that saw 10 ministers resign, disastrous local election results and reports of a plot to oust him.
He enjoyed a brief respite on Saturday with a trip to France for D-Day commemorations.
“I think it’s important to recognize that in these unprecedented times, we are bound to have ups and downs in politics,” he told reporters in Normandy.
“We keep on with the task at hand ... We are not diverted,” Brown said.
But the pressure resumed yesterday as ministers prepared for results from the European Parliament elections in which polls suggest Brown’s Labour party could come third or even fourth, with the main opposition Conservatives in the lead.
Fringe parties such as the anti-European UK Independence Party (Ukip) and the far-right British National Party (BNP) are also expected to benefit from voter anger at Labour, which has been in power since 1997.
The Observer newspaper reported yesterday that any significant success for the BNP — which is hoping to win its first member in the EU parliament — could spark a rebellion from Labour lawmakers, who would view it as a failure to engage voters.
Reports of a rebellion by Labour backbenchers last week failed to materialize after Brown reshuffled his Cabinet and several high profile ministers publicly pledged their support for his leadership.
But concerns remain that he cannot lead them to electoral success — opinion polls suggest the Conservatives would easily win a national election — and a bad showing in the European vote would reinforce these.
The mood among grassroots supporters, traditionally loyal to the leadership, is also grim.
A YouGov/Channel 4 News poll of 800 Labour activists found 47 percent wanted Brown to quit — 21 percent said he should go immediately.
Just 46 percent said they wanted him to lead Labour into the next general election, which is due by next June, and only 16 percent thought Labour was likely to win under his leadership, with 45 percent saying it was not likely.
However, the man who has been widely tipped as Brown’s successor, Alan Johnson, who was appointed home secretary in Friday’s Cabinet reshuffle, repeated his support for the prime minister in a magazine interview.
“I think it would be wrong to challenge Gordon,” Johnson told the New Statesman to appear on Thursday, insisting he was “the best man for the job.”
Labour Member of Parliament Jon Cruddas, who came third in the party’s deputy leadership election in 2007, wrote in the Sunday Mirror that it would be “madness” to oust Brown and Labour must “pull ourselves together.”
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory