Brown to defy cabinet critics with string of new policies

A defiant Gordon Brown will take on his critics in the Cabinet today by pledging to confront and overcome his problems, in a personal appeal to ministers to back his forthcoming "policy blitz" and save his embattled leadership.

At a specially convened cabinet meeting in Birmingham, the Prime Minister will circulate a draft document in which he makes clear that he has no intention of standing down. He responds to criticisms of the Government's lack of direction by outlining his philosophy of Labour as the party of the "many not the few".

The document, to be finalised next week and sent to Labour delegates before the party's annual conference later this month, will outline a string of policy initiatives to be rolled out during the Manchester gathering and beyond.

In the document's foreword, Mr Brown recalls his personal struggle after losing the sight in one eye in a teenage rugby accident, and signals that he will not bow to his critics: "My own response to the great challenges in my own life has been to confront them, resolute in the belief that there would always be something that could be done to overcome them. And there always has been."

Mr Brown adds: "Now, once more, I am confident that we can come through this difficult economic time and meet these challenges a stronger, more secure, and fairer country than ever before."

It is an expectedly defiant stance, but his problems show no signs of abating. Labour MPs and ministers have warned that Mr Brown faces a leadership challenge if the party's standing does not improve after the Manchester conference.

Union leaders gathering for the annual Trades Union Congress in Brighton yesterday called for an immediate cut in interest rates and taxes funded by extra public borrowing to pull the economy back from the brink of recession. They called on Mr Brown to deliver for hard-pressed families, and on the Government to "get its act together" and end the "squabbling" that has dogged the party.

Tensions within Labour continued, as Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of the giant Unite union, used an interview to launch an expletive-ridden tirade against the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband for his leadership ambitions, describing him as "smug" and "arrogant".

Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary and one of Mr Brown's closest allies, described the Government as "two-nil down" but made clear his frustration with the in-fighting. "There has got to be unity," he told the BBC, "there's got to be discipline, there's got to be confidence."

Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC, said: "They are in the dressing room probably warming up, but a few of their star strikers are struggling with injury. We are in urgent need of a physiotherapist."

Meanwhile, the PCS civil service union led warnings of a new winter of discontent, announcing that it would ballot 270,000 workers on strike action over pay, and co-ordinate three months of action with teachers, lecturers and other public servants.

Unison, the giant public sector union, also warned of renewed industrial action over pay, raising the prospect of strikes involving a million workers.

Allies of Mr Brown insisted that the Cabinet would rally round the autumn policy programme which promises immediate help for people struggling with the economic downturn, fresh policies on education, a "new deal" for the elderly, extra support for parents and "long-term decisions on transport, energy and climate change".

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