Allies of Gordon Brown have accused John Reid of trying to foment a heavyweight leadership challenge against the Chancellor by a Blairite standard-bearer.
They accused the Home Secretary of handing ammunition to the Tories after he made a speech warning Labour it would lose power if it ditches Tony Blair's New Labour approach after he stands down later this year.
George Mudie, a Brown supporter and Labour's former deputy chief whip, said: "I think the timing is important. I think it's just an early attempt to put a marker down to get some of Gordon Brown's supporters to say we need a change of direction, so that he [Mr Reid] can say 'this is disloyalty to the leader and therefore I shall throw my hat into the ring or I shall find someone to do it'."
Mr Reid said that, over the coming year, Labour must remain true to the essence of New Labour and recognise and support ambition, achievement and aspiration. "As long as we stay firm to that we will stay in government," he said.
Blairites say Mr Reid has not ruled out standing in the leadership election expected this summer. But Siobhan McDonagh, Mr Reid's parliamentary private secretary, said he "has never expressed a desire to be leader of the Labour Party or Prime Minister to me".Reuse content