British premier sacks second party dissident as revolt grows

September 14th, 2008 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownLondon, Sep 14 (IANS) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been forced to sack a second senior member of his Labour Party after facing what was described as a “coordinated coup attempt” against him.Brown sacked Joan Ryan, MP, from her post as Labour vice chairman and the prime minister’s special envoy to Cyprus Saturday after she said: “I want a leadership election, I want a choice of candidates, I want to have a debate.”

“We need to have this debate about the direction and leadership of our country out in the open now. It is happening at all levels of the party and it should be happening in a more open and honest way,” Ryan said.

The move came a day after the beleaguered British leader sacked party whip Siobhan McDonagh, who had also called for a leadership contest.

Brown has been under attack for what has been called an indifferent performance marked by indecision since taking over as premier in June 2007 from Tony Blair - the man who led Labour to three successive general election wins.

However, Brown’s tenure has also coincided with a resurgent Conservative party in the opposition and a global economic downturn sparked by the US credit-crunch.

Brown was considered one of Britain’s best post-war finance ministers when he served under Blair, but has been unable to stem a steady slide in opinion polls, leading to calls for a leadership election.

The pro-Labour Observer newspaper reported Sunday that seven more MPs had broken ranks to demand a leadership contest in a “coordinated coup attempt”.

It said the rebels were “urging dozens more who are unhappy with Brown’s performance to join them” ahead of a key party conference next week.

As the annual party conference season kicks off in Britain, Labour trails 19 points behind the Conservatives after a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times put the opposition party up one, on 46 percent, and Labour up two, on 27 percent.

The poll suggested an economic recovery package announced this month to help Britons tide over the impact of the global downturn - particularly aimed at stabilising the housing market - has done little to improve Labour prospects.

A one billion pound subsidy designed to help pensioners and the less well off cope with mounting energy bills came too late for the polls.

Brown’s supporters say Labour dissidents are unlikely to find the support of 71 MPs needed to trigger a leadership contest.

The prime minister himself is expected to try and seize the initiative next weekend with a “powerful speech and new policies” at the party conference in Manchester.

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