Gordon Brown: leadership crisis

British prime minister Gordon Brown came under attack from within his own Labour Party yesterday, as some blamed him for its latest humiliating electoral defeat.

A small number of senior Labour MPs accused him of being out of touch with the electorate, leading to a by-election defeat in Norwich North on Friday.

But Tony Lloyd, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said there would be no leadership challenge to Gordon Brown.

"There is no leadership crisis taking place," he said.

Brown faced down a group of party rebels last month following a drubbing in local and European elections. Despite a string of cabinet resignations, it became apparent that no Labour MP was prepared to stand against him.

Barry Sheerman, a select committee chairman, renewed his criticism yesterday, saying Brown had the summer to find a way to reconnect with core voters or consider his position.

"It's partly a question of leadership, it's partly a question of ideas," he said.

"It's for the prime minister to go away and say 'at the moment, I'm not connecting with the voters in our country, how do I get this right? '"And if he can't get it right, he loves our party, he's got to make the right decision for the party.

"In any other human organisation I know, if the chief executive actually doesn't make it, he doesn't get it and he doesn't deliver, then he has to consider his position."

The by-election was called after Labour incumbent Ian Gibson resigned in protest at the party barring him from standing in future elections in response to a scandal over MPs' expenses.

Former home secretary Charles Clarke blamed Brown's handling of the scandal for the heavy loss to the Conservatives.

Clarke said the prime minister's unfair vilification of Gibson had resulted in the election and subsequent defeat.

"Though the very low overall standing of the party was a serious handicap, the principal verdict of the by-election was on Labour's appalling handling of the expenses issue."

Another Labour backbencher, Kate Hoey, said the prime minister needed to look at how he led the Labour Party.

"By-elections are always unique but there is no doubt about it that this is a bad result," she said.

"The prime pinister I hope will be looking at how he's looking to lead the party and to talk to the party, and a lot of party members feel that they are not listened to."

She criticised Labour's "very negative campaign" in Norwich North, echoing Conservative Party leader David Cameron's criticism, but played down the prospect of a leadership contest.

"I think the party would need to reflect very seriously on whether it would be right or appropriate to change the leader so that we would have had two prime ministers who have not faced a general election in succession.

"Over the summer... a lot of MPs will be on holiday for a couple or three weeks, and this now will give time for reflection and the party political conferences will be the time when there is more time for discussion on that.

"But I personally don't think there will be a leadership election because in a way if there was going to be one, it should have happened a few months ago."