Gordon Brown faces yet more pressure as rebel Labour MPs warned they will not give ground in their battle to prevent an extension of anti-terror laws.
The rebels say they are still prepared to defeat plans to extend the time allowed to detain a terror suspect without charge to 42 days, despite Mr Brown's woes after the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. Next month's Commons debates on the Counter Terrorism Bill will be a severe test of the Prime Minister's embattled leadership, with Labour MPs threatening to inflict a damaging defeat on him.
Ministers have floated a series of concessions aimed at winning over critics, including increasing parliamentary oversight of the emergency power as well as a possible deal to allow the power to lay dormant until it is triggered by a fresh vote in Parliament.
But the Labour left-winger Alan Simpson warned yesterday that an attempt to push through the measure would only add to Mr Brown's troubles. He said: "People are more likely to go the other way if Mr Brown makes this a stand or fall issue at a time when his own standing is so precarious. People don't rush to join a sinking ship."
Civil rights groups said they had seen no weakening in opposition to the Bill. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "Since the local elections we have been working hard to see if there is any change of mood in the Parliamentary Labour Party. We have been heartened by the fact that we have not detected any."
Yesterday, Tony McNulty, the Police minister, became the latest senior Labour figure to call for calm in the party as rumours swirled of possible attempts to urge the Prime Minister to step down. He told GMTV: "The vultures should clear off because there is no corpse around."
He added: We are going through tough times and people need to understand who is the man of substance to take us through those times. If that is the question, I'm damn sure David Cameron isn't the answer."
But the Conservatives said Labour infighting could damage the country. Chris Grayling, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "The Government is in a state of chaos with ministers more interested in saving their careers and securing the future of the Labour Party than governing."Reuse content