Exclusive: Now the grassroots turn against Brown

The Labour Party's grassroots have turned decisively against Gordon Brown and a majority want him to stand down, according to an exclusive poll for
The Independent.

A survey of rank-and-file Labour activists found 54 per cent would prefer someone else to lead the party into the next general election. Mr Brown's personal rating was lower than every other member of the Cabinet except the Chief Whip Geoff Hoon and the Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly.

The findings are a crushing blow to the Prime Minister on the eve of a make-or-break annual Labour conference in Manchester starting tomorrow. He had been relying on the supposed support of activists to dampen the whispering campaign against him in Parliament. Some 45 per cent of those who responded believe that changing the party's leader before the next general election would improve Labour's prospects. Some 27 per cent believe that a new leader would make no difference to Labour's chances, while 28 per cent think it would worsen them.

A majority (57 per cent) believe there should be a vote at the Manchester conference on whether Mr Brown should face a leadership election, with 43 per cent opposed. This suggests strong support for the 12 Labour MPs who have called for a contest.

If Mr Brown is forced to stand down, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband (24.6 per cent) is the favoured successor among Labour's grassroots. He is followed by the Health Secretary Alan Johnson (18.1 per cent); the backbencher Jon Cruddas (11.3 per cent); the Justice Secretary Jack Straw (9.6 per cent); Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman (6.6 per cent); the left-winger John McDonnell (6.5 per cent); the Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell (3.2 per cent); and the Schools Secretary Ed Balls (2 per cent).

The online survey of 788 Labour members and supporters was conducted by Labourhome.org, an online forum for the Labour grassroots which is not funded or controlled by the party.

Brown allies have claimed that the rebel MPs are a small group of dissidents who do not represent the Parliamentary Labour Party or party members. Normally, the people taking part in the poll would instinctively be loyal to the party leader.

Mr Brown's personal standing appears to have sunk to a low ebb among Labour activists. Asked to give cabinet ministers marks out of 10 for their performance, Labour members and supporters gave him an average of only 4.3. Mr Johnson is regarded as the best-performing cabinet minister with 6.18 out of 10, followed by the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, Mr Straw and Mr Miliband.

Asked about the results on the BBC's Question Time programme, Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader, who scored 4.95, said it was just "one poll" and said those within the party calling for a leadership election were making "an error of judgement". Pressed to say she would not stand in any election, to show her support for Mr Brown, said refused to do so, saying the question was hypothetical. The survey will embolden those MPs who are determined to prise Mr Brown out of Downing Street within weeks. His critics believe Cabinet ministers will try to oust him if Labour loses the Glenrothes by-election in Fife, expected in late October or early November. "There is a growing consensus that Glenrothes should be the trigger point," one ministerial aide said yesterday.

Alex Hilton, the editor of Labourhome, said: "It's a real concern that a small majority of Labour members and supporters want Gordon Brown to step aside, though this poll was taken before it was clear the role the Prime Minister had played in the merger of Lloyds-TSB and HBOS."

The survey shows that morale in the Labour Party has slumped. Asked to rate their motivation to campaign for Labour, the average score is 4.8 out of 10 – down from 5.86 in June. Some 71 per cent of those taking part favour a windfall tax on the energy companies, with 29 per cent against, suggesting that Mr Brown could be defeated on the issue at the conference.

There is overwhelming support (86 per cent) for higher taxes on people earning more than £250,000 a year, with only 14 per cent opposed.

Some 48 per cent of those who responded want the money raised spent on cutting taxes for those on lower and middle incomes, while 52 per cent say it should maintain spending levels on public services.

Labour leaders will try to stifle dissent at the conference by arguing that the party will alienate voters if it indulges in "navel-gazing" during the global financial crisis.

Mr Brown told Sky News last night: "This is the time for people who know how to deal with difficult economic circumstances. I believe we are in difficult economic times."

The online survey of 788 Labour members and supporters was conducted by Labourhome.org on 15-18 September. Non-Labour supporters who responded were omitted from the published results.

How cabinet ministers rated in the survey

On a 1-10 scale, how would you rate the recent performance of each member of the Cabinet?

(1 = Very poor; 10 = Very good)

Alan Johnson 6.18

Hilary Benn 5.91

Jack Straw 5.71

David Miliband 5.61

Andy Burnham 5.35

John Denham 5.32

Jacqui Smith 5.15

Ed Miliband 5.05

James Purnell 5.04

Harriet Harman 4.95

Douglas Alexander 4.89

Ed Balls 4.80

Yvette Cooper 4.69

Hazel Blears 4.68

John Hutton 4.67

Des Browne 4.61

Baroness Ashton of Upholland 4.57

Paul Murphy 4.54

Shaun Woodward 4.53

Alistair Darling 4.31

Gordon Brown 4.30

Geoff Hoon 4.12

Ruth Kelly 4.07

If Gordon Brown stands down before the next general election, who would be your preferred choice to take over?

David Miliband 24.6%

Alan Johnson 18.1%

Jon Cruddas 11.3%

Jack Straw 9.6%

Harriet Harman 6.6%

John McDonnell 6.5%

James Purnell 3.2%

Ed Balls 2.0%

Someone else 18.0%

Source: labourhome.org

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Jeremy Clarkson
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own