Brown triumphs on terror – but then he is stopped in his tracks

Gordon Brown won a hollow victory for his new 42-day anti-terrorism powers last night when he was forced to rely on the votes of nine Democratic Unionist Party MPs during a day of backroom deals and concessions.

Although plans to detain suspected terrorists for up to 42 days were approved by 315 votes to 306, Labour MPs described the outcome as "the worst of all worlds" and said Mr Brown's decision to stake his reputation on the vote had backfired badly.

A bad day for Mr Brown got even worse when it emerged that highly-classified documents about the scale of the threat from al-Qa'ida were left on a train by a Whitehall official. It was the most serious in an embarrassing spate of sensitive data losses which have bedevilled the Brown Government.

Amid renewed doubts among his own MPs about whether Mr Brown should lead his party into the general election, ministers privately expressed fears that the 42-day detention plan could yet be defeated in Parliament.

The House of Lords looks certain to throw out the proposal overwhelmingly and ministers fear the narrowness of last night's vote will embolden more Labour rebels to vote against the Counter-Terrorism Bill should it return to the Commons. Thirty-six Labour MPs opposed it last night but organisers claim another 25 have grave reservations.

Downing Street insisted there had been no backstairs deal with the DUP. But rumours swept Westminster that the party which normally votes with the Tories had been bought off by promises of £100m of infrastucture projects in Northern Ireland and that the province would keep revenues from water charges rather than hand them over to the Treasury.

Labour critics of Mr Brown said his handling of the Bill had raised further doubts about his future as Prime Minister – and that an attempt to look tough on security had been neutered by the concessions he made in order to win over Labour rebels. One former minister said: "This was a crisis of Gordon's own making. He wanted to show strength but ended up showing profound weakness."

Some MPs warned that Mr Brown had "one last chance" to revive his premiership and would need to show real momentum by the party conference in Manchester in September to be sure of leading Labour into the next election. If he faltered, opponents predicted, a delegation of senior cabinet ministers would ask him to stand down for the sake of the party.

Despite relief at avoiding his first Commons defeat, Mr Brown will be brought down to earth today when he attends a Labour Party inquest into the party's disastrous performance at the local elections and Crewe and Nantwich by-election. He will also face a backlash over the missing security document.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were swift to capitalise on the loss, which they said underlined the Government's incompetence.

Baroness Neville-Jones, the Conservative security spokeswoman, said: "This is just the latest in a long line of serious breaches of security involving either the loss of data, documents or government laptops, further highlighting the most basic failures in this government's ability to maintain our security. The Government must make an immediate statement to Parliament and an inquiry must be launched."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "This is an appalling breach of security, which suggests that procedures on such sensitive matters are lax to the point of utter carelessness. There should be strict guidelines about when such secret documents are outside carefully monitored premises. It beggars belief that the Government could have scored such a devastating own goal on the very day that it was pushing draconian counter-terrorism laws through Parliament."

At a meeting of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), Mr Brown will hear criticism of his decision to abolish the 10p rate of income tax. "This alienated Labour's activists and core voters, those directly affected and those who think it is morally wrong," says a motion submitted by NEC members Ann Black and Pete Willsman.

They demand full compensation for the one million low-paid workers not helped by the £2.7bn package announced last month, and for the one-off payments for this year to be extended.

At a press conference today, the Prime Minister will promise to switch his focus on to people's concerns about the economy after the 42-day victory. "A win is a win," one relieved aide said.

"We won the argument; they bought the vote," said David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary. He said 42-day detention had "no parliamentary authority".

The Rev William McCrae, a DUP MP, insisted his party's move was not a matter of "propping up" the Prime Minister. "We decided on an issue of principle, on national security," he said.

A long power struggle between the Commons and the Lords could drag on beyond the current session of Parliament ending this autumn. John Grogan, one of the Labour rebels, said: "This is the worst possible revolt for the Government." He added: "The issue will dominate politics for the next 18 months. If it loses in the Lords, it should think again."

Bob Marshall-Andrews, another rebel, said: "Gordon Brown won the vote on the back of the Irish vote – nine Irish votes. That is going to play very, very badly in the country."

But Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister, said it would be "perverse" to interpret the vote as damaging to Mr Brown. He asked: "How on earth can the Prime Minister's stock be damaged if he has done what the country needs and desires, what our police want in terms of protection of the people of this country against the terrorist threat?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living