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Labour isn't out of touch, insists Home Secretary

Gordon Brown will try to rally dispirited Labour MPs tonight after facing renewed claims that his Government is in disarray and out of touch with ordinary people.

The Health minister Ivan Lewis broke ranks to warn the Government was "too often" ignoring issues most important to hard-working families. "This is not a criticism of Gordon, but we have been in government 11 years and instead of being on the side of the people, too often we simply defend the status quo, even when it is unacceptable," he told the News of the World.

"It is right we focus on the great challenges of climate change, globalisation, security and poverty at home and abroad and the nature of public service reform. But we are too often silent on the daily realities facing hard-working families."

Mr Brown will use a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party to hit back at further rumblings of discontent fuelled by Mr Lewis's remarks. Labour sources said the meeting would serve to rally the troops for the local elections in May.

Mr Brown has also suffered from reports of in-fighting at No 10 following the arrival of Stephen Carter as his political adviser and the departure of his long-term ally Spencer Livermore. Some of Mr Brown's most trusted allies believe the gloves should come off in the attack on the Tories, but Mr Brown's new advisers are understood to have warned against alienating middle-class voters by indulging in "class war" politics.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, denied the Government was out of touch. "It's always inevitable that when you're in government you have to find ways to renew, to listen, to respond," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. "I don't agree with [Ivan Lewis] that we are out of touch. I do agree with him that it is fundamentally important that we listen to what the British people are saying."