Brown tries to head off poll boycott by activists

Email apology to party workers after fears that campaign is moribund

Gordon Brown has apologised to Labour members for the Parliamentary expenses scandal in an attempt to head off a threatened boycott by activists upon whom the party is relying to canvass ahead of the European elections on 4 June.

Mr Brown has sent an email to all Labour members and re-assured them that tough action will be taken against any Labour MP who has defied the rules. One minister said some activists were refusing to campaign for next month's European and local elections because they felt betrayed by Labour MPs who milked the expenses system.

In his email, seen by The Independent, the Prime Minister said: "I know that people are angry about MPs' expenses. I know that you are working hard, on the doorsteps and the phones, to put Labour's message across... So I want to apologise to you on behalf of all politicians for this.

"Let's remember that the vast majority of Labour MPs are decent, honest and hard-working. Any MPs who have abused the allowances system have let down themselves, their colleagues, party members and the public." Mr Brown said that repayment "will not necessarily be enough" – a sign he is ready to stop the worst offenders standing for re-election.

His words cast further doubt on whether Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, will keep her post in an expected cabinet reshuffle next month. She is to pay back £13,000 after avoiding capital gains tax on the sale of her London flat. Mr Brown said yesterday she was in her post "at the moment" and that her behaviour had been "unacceptable". Downing Street insisted Mr Brown still had full confidence in her.

Ms Blears made it clear that she was determined to keep her job. "The Prime Minister said that I have acted entirely within the rules, as I have always said," she said. "But I also recognise that acting within the rules does not cut it with the public and that is why I paid the money."

Mr Brown rejected demands for an early general election so the public could decide which MPs should keep their seats. He told GMTV: "Do you really want to see tomorrow in the midst of the recession, whilst the Government is dealing with this, the chaos of an election? What you actually want is to get on with the job of sorting out the problem."

In the Commons, David Cameron accused Mr Brown of being "frightened of elections" and "hopelessly out of touch" with the public mood. When Mr Brown said the "chaos" would come from Tory spending cuts, Mr Cameron told him this was his "first admission that he thinks he is going to lose".

Mr Brown is under pressure from Labour activists worried that he was slower to crack down on errant MPs than Mr Cameron and faced criticism at a meeting of Labour's national executive committee on Tuesday.

Sixty Labour parliamentary candidates have signed five "integrity pledges" to reassure voters they would meet "high standards of integrity, transparency, accountability and financial economy" and saying they seek office "not for personal gain but to serve the public and our democracy".

Meanwhile, a by-election in the Glasgow North-East constituency of the departing House of Commons Speaker, Michael Martin, is likely to be in September, a local Labour Party chief said yesterday. Gerry Leonard, who was Mr Martin's election agent and chairman of the constituency party, admitted Labour will face a "hard fight" to hold the seat.

Shahid Malik, who has stood down as a Justice minister, insisted he had not resigned and that he had stepped aside while he cleared his name following the allegation that he paid rent under the market rate for his constituency home.

"I personally believe I have done nothing wrong," he said. "I have not resigned – that is rubbish and completely false."

Mr Brown faced calls for a wholesale reform of the political system. The Labour MP Martin Linton called for a referendum on changes to party funding, the House of Lords and voting methods.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said that in the wake of the scandal, there was a "once in a generation" chance to change British politics.

The Prime Minister said that the Government would publish plans in the next few weeks on "greater consultation between the public and Parliament and about enhancing the rights of the people in relation to the accountability of Parliament itself".

Mr Brown did not rule out a constitutional convention similar to the one which drew up the blueprint for Scottish devolution.

Resignation issue? The war of words

Gordon Brown

"What Hazel did was unacceptable. She came to me, we talked about it and she paid back the money. I am the only party leader... to have actually suspended and asked people to step down. If it became necessary to do so for other people, I will not resile from doing so."

GMTV, 7.30am, Wednesday 20 May

Hazel Blears

"Well you heard the Prime Minister's spokesperson this morning actually say the Prime Minister had full confidence in me, he thought I was doing a great job as Secretary of State, and I will be carrying on, doing exactly that, doing my job."

Talking to reporters in her Salford constituency, 12.45pm, Wednesday 20 May

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn