Minister attacks 'too timid' Brown

A Government minister has warned Gordon Brown that he must stop being timid and show stronger leadership if he is to revive his faltering premiership.

In the first direct criticism of Mr Brown by a minister since last week's Glasgow East by-election, the Health minister Ivan Lewis told The Independent: "The only way forward now is bold Labour. What we want to see is the Gordon Brown of Bank of England independence, SureStart and Make Poverty History. I think that his responsibility is to provide the bold and decisive leadership that we now need." He added that it was then the responsibility of the Labour Party as a whole to be "loyal and disciplined".

In the interview, Mr Lewis said that Labour's defeat in Glasgow "confirmed my view that timidity and incremental change will not deal with the way people feel right now." He urged Mr Brown to raise taxes for high earners so that they could in turn be cut for hard-pressed low- and middle-income groups struggling in the economic downturn. He also wants the Government to consider a windfall tax on energy companies, with the money raised used to tackle fuel poverty.

His remarkably candid assessment of Labour's problems will increase the pressure on Mr Brown to produce a wide-ranging package of measures to help people cope with rising fuel, food and housing costs when he launches his attempted fightback in September.

Last night the crisis engulfing Mr Brown deepened as his allies hit back at David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, over a newspaper article yesterday that was widely seen a prelude to a possible Labour leadership election.

Furious Brownites said Mr Miliband failed to quell such speculation at a press conference yesterday, although the Foreign Secretary said Mr Brown has the "values and the vision" to run the country successfully. "Can Gordon lead us into the next election and win? Yes, I'm absolutely certain about that," he added. Asked if he was planning a leadership bid, Mr Miliband said: "No, I'm not campaigning for anything other than a successful Labour government. The truth is we had a very bad result in the Glasgow by-election. I was frustrated by the sense of fatalism that had imbued in parts of the media and the Labour Party... Gordon will lead us forward and the rest of us have a contribution to make.

One Labour MP close to Mr Brown said: "David Miliband is letting his ego and his ambition cloud his judgement. If his intention was to focus on the Tories and get away from internal squabbling, he has succeeded in doing the exact opposite."

Mr Lewis's call to "be bold" echoes Mr Brown's criticism of Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister. At the 2003 Labour conference, Mr Brown declared: "This Labour Party [is] best when we are boldest, best when we are united, best when we are Labour."

Mr Lewis believes that Mr Brown has been too cautious. "If we as a government are going to be given permission to talk to people about the other issues that matter, we have got to reassure people – through actions not words – that we are on their side," he said. Insisting that Mr Brown could still lead Labour to an election victory, he said the party would lose unless it helped people through the economic storm and showed "a new idealism, purpose and passion". He said the fightback should be based on fairness, opportunity and community. Although he opposed punitive tax rises out of "dogma or ideology", he called for tax changes to protect "the quality of life" of people on low and middle incomes during the economic squeeze.

Mr Lewis added: "We are not here to be a bunch of technocrats. I joined the Labour Party, like most of my colleagues, because I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to change the world for the better. And obviously I wanted to do that in a way that was consistent with progressive values. How many people out there really believe any more that that's what people like me are about? That's what we need to turn around."

If Labour failed to do so, "the seductive, 'it's time for a change' message will work for Mr Cameron. We need to be the change... more of the same won't do." Asked if his fellow ministers were loyal to Mr Brown, he replied: "The test of any political party, any cause, is in the bad time and not the good time. We now face the ultimate test. People have a decision to make. But there's one thing that's absolutely clear, it's that the public don't vote for divided parties."

On whether Mr Brown would lead Labour into the election, Mr Lewis said: "I expect that will be the case, and we've got to believe – if we don't believe that we can still win, how do we expect the electorate to believe that?"

He added: "When you're the underdog, you have a choice – you can either lie down and die, or you can come out fighting with a passion and a purpose, which stirs your friends and shakes the confidence of your opponents. We have to recognise that New Labour has a problem now with definition. Old Labour doesn't have answers, and therefore the only way forward right now is bold Labour."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
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
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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: 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