Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Business leaders turn on 'Tsar Alan'

The arrival of Sir Alan Sugar into the Government as an “enterprise tsar” is just a desperate attempt by Gordon Brown to boost his public popularity, according to business leaders.

More than four-fifths (81 per cent) of business figures believe that the appointment was designed to help his public standing after a disastrous showing at the European and local elections last week, found a poll carried out by ComRes for The Independent.

Most of the 255 business leaders asked also saw the appointment as an empty gesture, with only 14 per cent believing Sir Alan would “make a real difference to the Government’s business policies”.

Just 29 per cent thought his appearance was a “wise move” by the Prime Minister, and only a third said Sir Alan had been right to take the job. Mr Brown handed the businessman and star of the BBC’s The Apprentice the role during last week’s cabinet reshuffle.

However, the appointment was immediately attacked by the Tories, who said that Sir Alan’s role on the BBC show presented a clear conflict of interest with his new job, for which he is not being paid.

The former chairman of Tottenham Football Club has handed over the day-to-day running of his companies in an attempt to defuse the row, a spokesman said. Leading Labour Party rebels signalled yesterday that Mr Brown could yet be removed as leader before the next election, despite surviving a plot to oust him.

Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary, said Mr Brown had work to do to ensure he would lead the party into the next general election. “If the poll ratings go up or we win these by-elections which are going to come through, I think the issue will go away and he can be confident he leads us into the next election,” he told the BBC’s Straight Talk programme. “If, on the other hand,he somehow doesn’t fulfil those things or electorally we do badly, then the issue will still be there.”

He also gave a dire warning that without any improvement in the party’s performance, Labour would face “total disaster” and may even be overtaken by the Liberal Democrats at the next election.

“Some of the people I trust most who watch opinion believe that if we keep going without improving, we could come third, we could even be down to less than 100 seats,” he said.

The Government also admitted last night that Lord Carter, the Communications minister, would be leaving his post over the summer recess.

He had made it clear upon taking the job that he was “not a politician” and had been recruited for the specific task of producing the Digital Britain report, which will be published next week.