One's Riding High in the Polls and Dreaming of Number 10while His Rival Wonders If He'll Still Be in a Job Come the Autumn. Is It Any Wonder David Cameron Looks More Relaxed on Holiday Than Gordon Brown? POLITICS

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Byline: Matt Withers Political Correspondent

GORDON BROWN began his family holiday yesterday amid increasing disquiet about his leadership and rumours of MPs plotting to remove him from office.

AsMr Brown began his seaside break, Justice Secretary Jack Straw - being spoken of as a potential successor - insisted he remained "absolutely convinced" Mr Brown should not be ousted as Prime Minister.

Mr Straw issued a public warning to MPs that it would be a "big mistake" to plot to remove Mr Brown following reports his allies were preparing for an autumn coup.

"I am absolutely convinced that Gordon Brown is the right man to be leading the Labour Party," he said. "I was convinced of that when Iwas his campaign manager last year and nothing that has happened since has changed that view.

"The result in Glasgow East was obviously disappointing but it would be a big mistake for the Labour Party to now turn in on itself and indulge in a summer of introspection. We must instead focus relentlessly on the issues which matter most to people, listen to their concerns and work hard to address them."

He went on: "Gordon Brown is the best leader to lead us through these tough times. He has done so before and he will do so again."

But it was widely reported yesterday that Mr Straw's close ally, George Howarth, a former minister, was gathering names to support a move against Mr Brown in the autumn.

Unnamed backbenchers said the plan was forMr Straw, seen as a potential interim replacement, to present Mr Brown with the list as evidence he no longer had MPs' backing.

Last week's catastrophic loss to the Scottish Nationalists in Glasgow has intensified speculation the PM could be forced out in a bid to reverse the Government's plummeting popularity.

Mr Howarth said: "Everybody's got to think long and hard about a number of issues, including policy, the party's popularity and the leadership."

But he insisted Mr Straw, who had made it known he wanted colleagues to rally round the PM but had not spoken out publicly, was not organising anything. "Jack is not up to anything. If anyone thinks I am collecting names for him, they are mistaken," he said.

It was reported yesterday that Blairite former ministers hostile to Brown had drawn up a "grid" for a possible coup, with the plotters issuing an ultimatum to cabinet ministers that they would have a week to force Brown to quit. …