Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised new legislation to curb bankers’ bonuses was forthcoming.

Chancellor Alistair Darling accused Tories of “playground politics” and said their policies would have turned a recession into a depression.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson said Labour were “underdogs” but could win the general election.

Just one in three Labour MPs believe they will be the largest party after the election, an Ipsos MORIpoll showed.

Labour MPs expect a Conservative majority of 7, leading to a hung parliament, while Tory MPs are predicting a clear majority of 41.

Voters would prefer any of eight alternatives to Brown as Labour leader, an Independent poll showed.

Rumours of a leadership challenge resurfaced as leftist Alan Simpson said he expected a power struggle before Christmas.

However most MPs acknowledged that the opportunity for a leadership challenge had passed, one saying: “It’s far too late for that.”

The Labour party became embroiled in a bitter row with the BBC, after presenter Andrew Marr asked the Prime Minister if he was dependent on prescription painkillers.