Threats, insults, and more bad polls: Brown's crisis continues to worsen

'He was put there to remind people how good Blair was'
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A Labour peer has criticised Gordon Brown for appearing "indecisive" and "weak" and compared him unfavourably with his predecessor, Tony Blair. Lord Desai, an economics professor and former Labour frontbencher, added to the pressure on the Prime Minister by describing his leadership style as "porridge or haggis" compared to the "champagne or caviar" offered by Mr Blair. He said Mr Brown came over as "solid, and maybe nourishing but not actually very appetising". He added: "Gordon Brown was put on Earth to remind people how good Tony Blair was."His colourful intervention was a fresh blow to the Prime Minister as he attempts to revive the Government's fortunes.Mr Brown's hopes that he could put his domestic troubles behind him during his current trip to the United States have proved forlorn.In recent weeks, ministers have begun to speak out about the problems engulfing Labour. Even Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, has admitted that the Government needed to "sharpen up" and give a clearer message to voters.

Labour MPs are in open revolt over the decision to double the 10p minimum rate of income tax, plans to detain terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge and post office closures.

Others have been critical of Mr Brown's personal style and leadership abilities and fear that his hard-won reputation for economic competence has been destroyed by the credit crunch, falling house prices and gloom on the high street.The feverish atmosphere in Labour ranks comes amid dismal opinion poll ratings and fears of further setbacks in previous party strongholds in the local council elections on May 1Lord Desai yesterday denied being disloyal to Mr Brown, insisting: "I'm not stabbing him in the back, if I am stabbing him at all it's in the front." In a series of media interviews, he said Labour was discussing "at all levels" what to do about Mr Brown's problems, but insisted that he should carry on as Prime Minister. "We are not going to have another leadership election. He has to stay and do better and win us the next election," Lord Desai said. But he conceded that the economic downturn and Mr Brown's presentational weaknesses would make it "very difficult" for Labour to win. Lord Desai, the emeritus professor of economics at the London School of Economics, said: "A lot of this is about perception. He [Mr Brown] doesn't seem to be able to tell people he's on their side and he can solve their problems. I really think somebody has to change his style and make him more presentable." He added: "What you had before [under Mr Blair] was a completely confident leader. Gordon is a worrier. He wants to think things through until he gets to the solution." He also said Mr Brown's "academic" approach did not reassure people. "It is not very persuasive if you don't already agree with him," he added. "As PM, people scrutinise you differently from the way they look at you as Chancellor and I think Gordon has suffered from that. As Chancellor, everyone thinks you are very clever. People willingly suspend disbelief and assume you have a grip on things. It is different when you are leader and the exposure is constant." He also said that when Labour did choose a new leader it should opt for David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, rather than Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary who is Mr Brown's own favoured successor.

George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, said Mr Brown's Government was "unravelling by the hour". He said: "At a time of economic uncertainty, the public are now asking whether Gordon Brown has the authority to lead the country through difficult times."

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "Gordon Brown's government is starting to unravel before our eyes as Labour MPs see the full extent of the Prime Minister's betrayal of the most needy in our society."