Two Labour backbenchers today called on Gordon Brown to sack David Miliband, as speculation increased about the Foreign Secretary's leadership ambitions.
Reacting to Mr Miliband's controversial newspaper article about the future of the Labour Party, Geraldine Smith said Mr Miliband was "trying to stir up trouble" and should get on with his job, adding that if he was sacked he would return to being a "nonentity" on the backbenches.
Bob Marshall-Andrews accused Mr Miliband of "pretty contemptible politics" and said his behaviour had been "duplicitous".
Meanwhile, Mr Miliband has cancelled a four-day September trip to India and called what was regarded as a 'farewell' meeting with his staff, reported Times Online.
The foreign trip was considered an important opportunity to promote Britain's trade interests abroad. No reason was given for the cancellation. In the staff meeting earlier this week, Mr Miliband thanked his staff for their efforts, sparking resignation rumours.
Mr Miliband today insisted that he was not "running a leadership campaign" and believed Mr Brown could hang on as leader.
Speaking on BBC2's Jeremy Vine show, the Foreign Secretary said: "I am not running a leadership campaign. I have always wanted to support Gordon's leadership."
Asked if the PM could "hang on", Mr Miliband replied: "Yes, of course. Look, this leader of the Labour Party has got huge experience, he has got good values."
He defended his decision to publish an article in yesterday's Guardian which was widely seen as destabilising for the Prime Minister.
"I think the worst thing at the moment would be if we all went mute," he said. "I think it's right that we say that, sure we've taken some hits, but actually we've got ideas about the future of the country, we do want to engage with people."
He added: "Gordon Brown is the leader of our party. I have always supported Gordon's leadership of the party. I think the party has benefited from the fact that he has brought people on, he's got a strong team, and we should all be contributing."
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World At One, Ms Smith said: "I think this article has been done quite deliberately to stir things up and I think it's totally unacceptable behaviour from a senior Cabinet minister."
She said Mr Miliband would have had plenty of opportunities to put his ideas forward at the Labour party conference in September.
And she said Mr Brown was the right man to lead Britain out of difficult global economic circumstances, adding: "He's got the experience, he's got the best economic expertise to deal with the problems we are facing.
"What has Mr Miliband ever achieved apart from furthering his own career?"
Asked whether the Prime Minister was in a strong enough position to be able to sack Mr Miliband, Ms Smith replied: "I think Gordon Brown has got to display the strength that we all know he possesses. Plotters in all parties have a very poor record of success.
"If David Miliband was placed back on the backbenches then I think he would become the nonentity that he was before his accelerated promotion."
She added: "What we can't have is people in the Cabinet that are plotting and trying to undermine the Prime Minister. That's unacceptable.
"And there's plenty of middle ranking ministers and people just outside the Cabinet ... who have got the loyalty and have got the experience and ability to be first-class Cabinet ministers.
"So there's plenty of people in the Labour party who wouldn't mind doing those jobs, and I think as a whole it won't be looked at kindly by our members and by the British public if we have got Cabinet members that aren't getting on with their jobs and instead they are just trying to stir up trouble."
She said there was not going to be a leadership contest, saying such a move would be "suicidal".
"When most Labour MPs sit back over the summer and think about their position, they will realise that all this will be just silly season talk," she said.Reuse content