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UK Politics

New leader sacks Brownite Chief Whip

One of Gordon Brown's closest allies paid the price of his links to the former prime minister as Nick Brown was ousted from his post as Chief Whip. Ed Miliband effectively bypassed new Labour Party rules to ensure that his own choice would take the role of enforcing discipline among MPs.

Nick Brown, who first joined the Labour frontbench 25 years ago, had also served under Tony Blair as Chief Whip. But he became so closely associated with Gordon Brown that it was frequently joked at Westminster that it was no coincidence they shared the same name.

Mr Brown was forced to withdraw his nomination for the elected post following a tense meeting with the new leader. In an exchange of letters yesterday, neither man attempted to conceal the fact that he had been effectively sacked.

Mr Brown wrote: "During our meeting earlier today, you indicated that you wished me not [to stand]. The Chief Whip must have the full confidence of the party leader. I fully respect your wishes and will no longer be standing." Mr Miliband said: "The election of a new leader is time for a fresh start and that's why I am grateful to you for agreeing to stand aside."

Rosie Winterton, the MP in the neighbouring constituency to Mr Miliband's, will now become Chief Whip. She was the only candidate, is a less factional figure than her predecessor and is popular across the party.

It was to have been the first time Labour MPs would have had the right to vote in their choice for chief whip. Before the rule change, made earlier this month, leaders had the power to appoint an MP. Jim Fitzpatrick, who was likely to have become Chief Whip under David Miliband, also withdrew his candidacy.

Allies of Ed Miliband suggested that Nick Brown's removal was a gesture of goodwill to Blairites smarting from David Miliband's departure from the political limelight. Mr Brown had forged a close personal and political relationship with his namesake and faced increasing suspicion among Tony Blair's team in Downing Street.

Mr Blair moved him out of the Chief Whip's office after just one year in the post and transferred him to what should have been the political backwater of the Ministry of Agriculture. However, he was pitched into the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001 and bore the brunt of criticism of the Government's handling of the emergency.

Gordon Brown re-appointed him as Chief Whip when he finally succeeded to Downing Street in 2007. But he struggled to shrug off his reputation as the new Prime Minister's henchman – and was blamed by new Labour figures for briefing against them.

Mr Brown's departure had been widely expected if David Miliband had won the leadership election, with the former Foreign Secretary said to have already decided he could not work with him. But his brother came to the same conclusion, and other candidates were also given warning not to oppose Ms Winterton.

Mr Brown had supported the decision to elect the chief whip, with some in the party speculating at the time he was trying to shore up his own position. He is said to have backed the rule change because, in theory at least, it appeared to make him immune from being removed by a new leader.