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LABOUR IN MELTDOWN

AS VOTERS go to the polls, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is fighting for his political life after cabinet minister Hazel Blears resigned yesterday &ndash; just 24 hours ahead of today&rsquo;s European and local government elections.<br /><br />Communities secretary Hazel Blears is the fourth ministerial departure in 48 hours and the second at cabinet level, after it was revealed on Tuesday that home secretary Jacqui Smith would stand down as part of Brown&rsquo;s planned ministerial reshuffle.<br /><br />Some Labour MPs were last night circulating an email calling for the Prime Minister&rsquo;s resignation in advance of the drubbing the polls show the Party is expected to take in today&rsquo;s elections and in the general election that must be held within the next 12 months.<br /><br />Part of the email, addressed to Brown, reads: &ldquo;We believe that, in the current political situation, you can best serve the Labour Party and the country by stepping down as party leader and Prime Minister, and allow the party to choose a new leader to take us into the next general election.&rdquo;<br /><br />Blears said she would head back to &ldquo;grassroots&rdquo; campaigning on the streets of her Salford constituency.<br /><br />In a stormy Commons session yesterday Brown denied his government was in &ldquo;meltdown&rdquo; and rejected calls for an immediate general election.<br /><br />But Tory leader David Cameron told Brown yesterday&rsquo;s events were &ldquo;a direct challenge to your authority&rdquo;.<br /><br />Observers say Brown&rsquo;s authority has been weakened, and it will be hard for him to force out his former ally chancellor Alistair Darling as he had originally planned. <br /><br />A YouGov poll published today reflects how the economic downturn and the MPs&rsquo; expenses scandal has damaged the major parties while benefiting fringe ones.<br /><br />In the European elections, UKIP, the Greens and the BNP are together predicted to attract a combined 33 per cent of the vote. The Tories are forecast to take 26 per cent, with UKIP on 18 per cent, Labour on 16 per cent and the Lib Dems on 15 per cent.