Lord Owen called to No 10 for 'discussions' with PM

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown has reached out to one of Labour's prodigal sons by holding private talks with Lord Owen, the former foreign secretary who quit Labour to create the SDP in the early 1980s.

The crossbench peer said he was asked to meet Mr Brown at Downing Street on Wednesday for talks "on a range of issues", but played down suggestions that he might become an official adviser to the Government or consider rejoining his former party.

Lord Owen, one of the "gang of four" who created the SDP in an attempt to break the mould of British politics, said his talks with the Prime Minister were "not in the context" of Mr Brown's decision to ask a string of figures from across the political divide to advise the Government.

He said: "I think he just wanted to discuss a broad range of issues." Lord Owen praised Mr Brown for a return to cabinet government. "In the last four or five years I have been very critical of the absence of cabinet government. That was one of the reasons we made such a hash of the whole Iraq issue."

Asked if he would consider rejoining Labour, the peer said: "I remain a social democrat ...I do not really consider myself part of the legislative process."

Meanwhile, Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, faced strong criticism from Lord Rodgers, another member of the "gang of four" who broke with Labour to form the SDP. Baroness Shirley Williams, the third surviving member of the group, has already agreed to act as an adviser to Mr Brown's government.

Lord Rodgers told the BBC's Politics Show that he was "disappointed" with Sir Menzies' leadership and warned the Liberal Democrats were seen as little more than a "think-tank".