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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz