PM hints at prospect of concessions to tax rebels

Brown desperate to quell mounting revolt among Labour backbenchers in advance of the 1 May local elections. Jane Merrick reports

Gordon Brown embarked on a seven-day charm offensive yesterday to win over rebels opposed to his tax policy in an attempt to defeat the most serious threat to his leadership so far.

As MPs return to Westminster tomorrow, the Prime Minister will hold out the prospect of future concessions ahead of a Commons vote next week on the axing of the 10p income tax rate.

But rebellious Labour MPs, including several ministerial aides, will be told the policy cannot be fundamentally changed and will be reminded that the Government has lowered the basic rate from 22p to 20p.

Yvette Cooper, chief secretary to the Treasury, last night appeared to rule out any U-turn on the abolition of the 10p rate. "You have to remember of course that when you have a major package of changes like this it isn't possible to help everyone in any one Budget," she told Sky News.

"Those who don't benefit from this year's changes will have benefited over the past few years from previous changes. And of course we will also be looking in future Budgets and future pre-Budget reports at what we can do to help those on the lowest incomes."

There were doubts yesterday that a promise of long-term help would be enough to stave off a major rebellion next Monday. Frank Field, the widely respected former welfare minister, is planning to table an amendment to the Finance Bill calling for compensation for the 2.3 million people who lose money under the tax changes. As many as 70 MPs could rebel.

If the Government does not set out specific measures this week, Mr Field is understood to be preparing to go ahead with his amendment. Some MPs warned the 10p row could be academic because there could be "civil war" if Labour did badly in the 1 May local elections, which come three days after next Monday's vote. Another rebellion is looming on plans to extend detention without charge to 42 days, while there were reports yesterday of a possible third revolt on grammar schools.

Following the death of Gwyneth Dunwoody last week, Labour officials fear that they could lose the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, which could be held as early as 15 May, to the Conservatives.

There was irritation at Ed Balls's warning in an interview that MPs should stop their "indulgent nonsense", while Angela Smith, the ministerial aide who threatened to resign over the tax change, was described as "naive" by Downing Street sources.

In an attempt to end the crisis, Treasury ministers and government whips spent the weekend calling MPs to try to win them over. The Labour chairman, Harriet Harman, has been sent to the weekly meeting of the parliamentary party tomorrow evening to rally MPs.

Supporters of Mr Brown are dismayed that the row over the 10p rate has threatened to destabilise party unity ahead of local polls in 11 days. The issue overshadowed his trip to the US this week, which, after a difficult start, was seen in Downing Street as successful.

The sense of government disarray was underlined by apparent mixed signals from No 10 and the Treasury. Angela Eagle, the Treasury minister, said on Friday that people should "watch this space" to see if there were any concessions, while Downing Street made clear there would be no climbdown.

A backbencher who opposes the 10p change warned the real battle would come after the local polls. The MP said: "The party is like a pressure cooker. The election results will do one of two things, ease the pressure or explode it into a civil war."

Alastair Campbell told one newspaper this weekend: "Some of the MPs who have been causing difficulty for the leadership would be better placed devoting their energies to putting pressure on the Conservative Opposition, who are getting away with murder."

Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, and other disgruntled MPs are said to be holding their fire until after the local elections.

The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond, told BBC News 24: "Gordon Brown is in denial, refusing to acknowledge there is a problem. We are seeing his authority crumbling around him."

Once the May election results are known, Labour faces the by-election for Mrs Dunwoody's seat. Her daughter Tamsin is tipped as the party's best chance to inherit her constituency. A former Welsh Assembly member, Ms Dunwoody might be the only candidate who could prevent Labour's vote collapsing.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'