Brown orders Cabinet 'to hit the ground running'

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown will launch a fightback in the new year in which he will try to regain the political initiative after a series of setbacks.

He told his Cabinet yesterday that ministers should "hit the ground running" after the Christmas break with policy announcements and told them to explain how they fitted into the wider "opportunities for all" agenda.

Mr Brown is worried that too many ministers are suffering from "departmentalitis" and have been sucked into day-to-day "fire-fighting" to fix problems in their areas.

As a result, the Government's overall vision has become blurred, he fears.

Brown aides dismissed the idea of a "re-launch" but admitted the Prime Minister wanted to ensure ministers issued simple messages that knit together the common goals behind policies across departments. Some advisers are comparing the new approach to the simple "pledge card" with five promises on which Labour won its landslide victory in 1997.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister tried to repair the damage caused by his decision to turn up three hours late at last week's signing ceremony for the new European Union treaty in Lisbon. He announced that he would meet Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, in London early next month to discuss joint action over the global credit crunch. In a Commons statement on Friday's EU summit, Mr Brown repeatedly stressed for co-operation among EU members on issues such as climate change.

He promised MPs a fresh vote each time qualified majority voting was extended to new areas under the treaty. David Cameron, the Tory leader, said the Prime Minister's behaviour in Lisbon was "frankly bizarre", and he told Mr Brown he was "weak and dithering".

Labour's attempted fightback could be threatened by demands for a referendum on the treaty and a growing Labour rebellion over plans to hold terrorist suspects for up to 42 says without charge.

Yesterday, former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, became the latest senior figure to criticise the proposal. He said the "bidding war" over the detention period was futile as prosecutors had adopted procedures which meant they did not need an extension beyond the 28-day maximum.