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Video by Owen FAIRCLOUGH


Latest update : 2009-06-08

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown faces a challenge to his leadership after Labour Party support plunged to its lowest level in a century in EU elections. Brown will meet with party members, many of whom say he is ineffective on domestic issues.

AFP - Embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was locked in a showdown with angry lawmakers from his party Monday, reports said as he clung to power after a second humiliating poll defeat within days.
Brown's Labour was beaten into third place in the European elections, behind fringe anti-Europeans the UK Independence Party (UKIP), leaving him fighting for his job after 11 ministers resigned in recent days.
But at least one critic confronted Brown at a regular meeting with lawmakers at the House of Commons Monday evening, amid growing calls for him to step down and give the party a chance of winning the next general election.
Brown was applauded as he arrived for a packed meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) around 6:00pm (1700 GMT), according to the BBC. The room where it was held was so full that some lawmakers were not able to get in.
But Sky News television reported, about an hour after the closed-door meeting started, that former interior minister Charles Clarke had openly confronted Brown in the meeting, asking him to step down.
The high-stakes showdown came after the latest in a wave of ministerial resignations, as junior environment spokeswoman Jane Kennedy announced she was going.
Like James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary who is the biggest name so far to quit, she departed with a personal attack on Brown.
"I have been unhappy for some time about smears against colleagues, about undermining of colleagues and friends by Number 10," she told Sky News television, referring to the premier's 10 Downing Street office address.
Although Kennedy is not a big name, she was a previously loyal Labour figure whose departure highlights the depth of unhappiness felt by many members of parliament with Brown, which could spill over at Monday's meeting.
Already feeling bruised by public anger over a scandal about their expenses, they are worried that Brown's unpopularity could lose them their seats at the next general election, which must be held by mid-2010.
The main opposition Conservatives led by David Cameron are currently well ahead in opinion polls, while 52 percent of voters want Brown to resign immediately, a ComRes/BBC poll of 1,001 adults released Monday said.
According to reports, some rebels will pledge to stop sniping at Brown if he agrees to let them hold a secret ballot of confidence in him, and wins.
For his part, Brown was reportedly set to try and placate them with promises of a long-demanded inquiry into the war in Iraq and a pledge to shelve controversial plans to part-privatise the Royal Mail postal service.
With all 72 seats declared in the European Parliament elections Monday, the main opposition Conservatives had 27.7 percent, UKIP 16.5 percent and Labour 15.7 percent, according to the BBC.
The far-right British National Party (BNP), which earned its first two European lawmakers, was in sixth place overall with 6.2 percent of the vote.
The news came two days after Labour also suffered a wipeout in local elections whose results were announced Friday, as Brown countered a flurry of resignations with a cabinet reshuffle.
In another blow for Brown, former Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer called for Brown to be replaced as Labour leader in the Times newspaper on Monday, saying he would not win back public support.
In an editorial, the Times said the prime minister's position "could hardly be more precarious". "Unity under Brown is now impossible. A paralysed government is terrible for the nation," it said, adding he must be replaced.

Date created : 2009-06-08