Attempted coup against Brown rebounds on UK government


London : Prime Minister Gordon Brown Thursday attempted to play down the damage to the chances of his government being re-elected following a challenge to his leadership, saying it was just a “storm in a teacup.”

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“Every day there is a new problem, every day there is a new challenge – it is how you deal with it,” Brown told the BBC in his first public comments since two former cabinet ministers on Wednesday called on Labour MPs to hold a secret ballot on his leadership.

Former defence secretary Geoff Hoon and former trade secretary Patricia Hewitt called for the issue to be resolved “once and for all” ahead of the forthcoming general election, which is due to be held by June at the latest.

But having failed to gain support for another leader, the bid backfired on the government with opposition parties claiming it had damaged Brown’s authority and hopes of staging a political revival.

Conservative leader David Cameron, whose party is strong favourites to win the elections, said the attempted coup proved that the government was “deeply divided” and that Brown did not have a mandate to rule.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that the plot showed why a general election needed to be held in Britain because Labour was more interested in itself than the country.

The call for an effective vote in confidence in Brown slowly unwound on Wednesday afternoon as ministers emerged to express their support for the prime minister and ridicule the attempt to hold a secret ballot as being unconstitutional.

Many Labour MPs have also expressed concern about the timing of the bid amid signs of recovery in support for the government, which has been trailing the Conservatives for months in opinion polls.

Brown has faced criticism within the party over his performance since replacing Tony Blair as prime minister in 2007. But reports of wholesale rebellions have often failed to materialise, including in a previous coup attempt last June.