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
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
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: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot