Harman and Beckett join the attack on struggling PM

Pressure piled on Gordon Brown as allies and former colleagues speak out

An attempt by Gordon Brown to boost his party's flagging fortunes with a Government reshuffle will not save him from electoral defeat, according to a Cabinet minister sacked from her post.

Margaret Beckett, who lost her job as the housing minister and is now competing to become the next Speaker, said a hung parliament was likely at the next election due to a sharp fall in Labour's support and a surge in favour of the Conservatives.

The former Foreign Secretary also refused to endorse Mr Brown's leadership, saying she had not always agreed with him. "The next parliament could be a hung parliament or close to it," she said. "I have been there. I saw how crucial the role of Speaker can be. Things get very close and very tight. There can be a lot of tension between the parties."

Another senior Cabinet minister hinted that she agreed with recent criticisms that Mr Brown had failed to give key posts to women. Harriet Harman, the equalities minister and Leader of the House, said she "shared the frustrations" of those who believed women had not had an equal role in politics. She said she would not be happy until half the Cabinet were women. Her comments come after Caroline Flint, the former Europe minister who left in the reshuffle, accused Mr Brown of treating female ministers as "window dressing".

A poll published yesterday heaped further misery on the Prime Minister, suggesting his reshuffle had made little impact on his fortunes. The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found slightly more than half of voters thought Mr Brown's leadership was "damaging the country". The poll gave the Tories a 16-point lead over Labour, with a 40 per cent share of the vote. Both parties lost support as a result of the expenses scandal, with both down three points on last month. The Liberal Democrats remained on 18 per cent.

The reshuffle did not impress backbenchers, some of whom said last night that it would not ward off a renewed attempt to remove Mr Brown as leader in the autumn. "We all know this was not the reshuffle that Mr Brown wanted, meaning that he has some people there who he didn't want," said one last night.

Some are also angry about a recent meeting of Labour MPs, during which Mr Brown was given a round of applause orchestrated by loyalists. "Anyone would have thought we had just won a fourth term," said a former Labour minister yesterday. "The loyalists have won for now, but the group who will never accept Mr Brown's leadership is continuing to grow."

Mr Brown fuelled the spat with the Tories over public spending yesterday, trying to convince voters that the Conservatives would slash public services. He labelled the Tory leader David Cameron "Mr 10 Per Cent" because of spending cuts he would force upon all Government departments except health and foreign aid.

"We now know the Tories want to cut public spending by a savage 10 per cent," he said. "They have finally revealed what their true priorities are: a cuts plan that is wide, deep and immediate, to fund a £200,000 tax cut for the 3,000 richest families."

However, the claim was dismissed as a "child-like deception" by the shadow Business Secretary, Ken Clarke. "Gordon Brown's been pretending we are the party of cuts and he's the party of investment, despite the public figures saying real spending is going down even on Labour's announced plans," he said. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, called Mr Brown's attack a "very artificial argument".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
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: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness