Cabinet infighting ‘angering Labour activists’

Labour is heading for opposition unless cabinet ministers stop manoeuvring for position, the party’s general election co-ordinator warned last night.

Douglas Alexander protested that the infighting had angered and dismayed Labour activists who wanted ministers to concentrate on steering Britain through the recession.

His candid admission of the tensions around the cabinet table follows a week of growing speculation about Gordon Brown’s successor after the election.

Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, has been accused by cabinet colleagues of undermining Mr Brown by appearing to position herself for a future leadership bid.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, has faced charges that he is raising his profile for the same reason, while Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, is being championed by many Labour MPs for being best-placed to take on David Cameron. Yvette Cooper, the Treasury Chief Secretary and Mr Balls’ wife, has even been floated as a surprise candidate for the leadership.

Mr Alexander, who is also the International Development Secretary, revealed his frustration over colleagues’ jockeying for position as he warned that it was demoralising for Labour activists.

Delivering a plea for unity, he said: “The many party staff I have met this week who, with our members, will be on the front line of that campaign, want the direction and focus of the Cabinet’s efforts to be getting Britain through the downturn and working together to secure a Labour victory.

“All of us should remember the words from our party’s constitution, on the back of our membership card: ‘By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone.’”

Mr Alexander, who was speaking in his Paisley constituency, said: “When the general election comes, securing a fourth term will be difficult but do-able. The task of securing that fourth term will require unity, effort and innovation.”

Mr Brown is expected to demand unity in a cabinet meeting to be held on Monday outside London. Ministers will then be dispatched on a series of visits and photocalls where they will stress their commitment to concentrating on tackling the recession.

Mr Alexander’s rebuke came after Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, also warned of a backlash from the voters if the feuding continued.

“All this political positioning just helps the Tories,” she said. “My message to my colleagues is simple: get a grip. Our first loyalty is to the British people. If they think that we are more interested in our own jobs than theirs, they will not forgive us. If the mindset is all about what happens after some future election defeat, then the game’s up.”

The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, was named as the public’s first choice to succeed Mr Brown. He was chosen by 19 per cent of people polled by PoliticsHome.com.

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was named by 15 per cent, followed by 10 per cent for Mr Johnson. Ms Harman, who has insisted that there is no “shred of truth” in suggestions that she is positioning herself to succeed Mr Brown, was selected by 5 per cent.

The feuding comes as polls provide further evidence that the “Brown bounce” has collapsed as the recession deepens. On current levels of support, Mr Cameron is heading into Downing Street, with a majority somewhere between 100 and 200.

Labour’s nightmare scenario is that the party comes third behind the Liberal Democrats in the local elections and European elections in June. That could trigger speculation of a final bid to unseat Mr Brown, in what would be an effort to limit the damage in the general election, which must be held by June 2010.

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

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

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone