Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

PM Defends Reshuffle and Calls for Unity as MPs Return after Break

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

PM Defends Reshuffle and Calls for Unity as MPs Return after Break

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL WAUGH, NICHOLAS CECIL

GORDON BROWN was set to face down critics of his Cabinet reshuffle today as Peter Mandelson warned Labour will be out of power "for a generation" if the party splits during the financial crisis.

As MPs gathered for the first time since their three-month summer break, the Prime Minister was preparing to address the Parliamentary Labour Party with a rallying call for unity.

Some Left-wing MPs are furious about Mr Mandelson's return while others are worried that MPs behind the plot to oust Tony Blair have been promoted over the weekend.

A News of the World ICM poll of marginal seats yesterday put the Tories on 43 per cent, Labour on 34 per cent and the Lib Dems on 15 per cent enough for a healthy 78-seat majority for David Cameron.

Tonight's party meeting was, until a few weeks ago, seen as a possible focus of rebellion from backbenchers unhappy with Mr Brown's leadership.

But the Prime Minister feels that he has emerged from the conference season much stronger and Mr Mandelson's dramatic return has killed off chances of a putsch this year.

Mr Brown was poised to tell colleagues tonight that now is the time for the party to show "unity and determination" and to focus on the economy. He also wanted to set out his "road map" forward by building on themes from his conference speech, including public service reform and universal childcare.

The slogan of the newly-confident premier was "fighting for families and British business first".

Mr Mandelson admitted in an interview with the Financial Times today that he had consulted Mr Blair before finally accepting the offer of the post of Business Secretary.

"I left Downing Street and went to see Tony in his office. I told him what Gordon had put to me and he told me that

Gordon had already mentioned it to him. …

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