Labour urged to unite behind Blair

An appeal to Labour MPs for unity was made yesterday by Jack Cunningham, a senior member of Tony Blair's Shadow Cabinet, amid fresh signs of strain in the Labour ranks over the Labour leadership.

Tensions emerged after it was disclosed that Mr Blair had been confronted with criticism at a series of meetings with backbenchers to "clear the air" over the direction in which he is taking the party.

Reports that the Labour leader was confronted by a "mutiny" were strongly denied by people from both sides of the party who were there. However there appears to be internal policy strains, particularly over the threat to cut child benefit for 16- to18-year-olds.

Dismissing the rifts as "tittle tattle", Mr Cunningham said on BBC1 television's Breakfast with Frost: "I know they know how challenging the task is and how important it is for them and everyone else in Labour's team to work together to maximise the opportunities for victory."

Last night one hard-left Labour MP said: "There is not a crisis at all. They were friendly meetings. There was not a mutiny. Blair was very relaxed.

"They were cathartic because we had had a good moan, but it was likely that it would influence nothing at all in the style and content of the leadership's policy drive."

Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, is being blamed behind the scenes for failing to consult colleagues about major policy announcements, including his desire to cut child benefit for 16- to18-year-olds in full- time education.

Some of the MPs, including loyalists, complained that they were being taken for granted. David Hanson, parliamentary private secretary to John Prescott, the deputy leader, is reported to have told Mr Blair: "I feel like a sponge soaking up criticism on policies I only hear of on the radio."

London MP Tony Banks said: "People want help. If we don't deliver I will need a tin hat when I walk in the streets."

Ken Livingstone defended Clare Short, the shadow Transport Secretary, for appearing to support a higher rate of tax. Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham, and a moderniser, said it would be difficult to tell a teacher couple earning around pounds 70,000 together that they should pay more in tax.

Mr Blair appeared at the meeting, one of a series about a fortnight ago, without his press secretary, Alastair Campbell, or any other Shadow Cabinet colleagues. A polling expert told the group of MPs - drawn from all sides of the party - that private polling evidence showed the Tories were mistrusted, but that the electorate was not certain it could trust the Labour Party. "The message was clear - that we should not disrupt things if we wanted to win the election," said one Labour MP.

"Tony talked about the importance of discipline. We explained to him he didn't understand just how disciplined the party was at the moment. We have never known the party more self-controlled in the sense of knowing we have to win the next election, and we are willing to button our lips to do so."

Others present included Allan Rodgers, Ken Eastham, Gerry Bermingham, Mildred Gordon, Alan Simpson, Terry Lewis, and John Austin-Walker.

Mr Hanson said last night: "The meeting I was at was not an angry confrontation but a sharing of views and a very positive discussion between the leader and MPs from all wings of the party. There was no anger. There was no outrage. The meeting was very positive."

Leading article, page 14

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker