Labour anger over Mandelson's call

LABOUR chairman Hazel Blears went on to the offensive today, using a radio interview to appeal to the party to unite ahead of the May elections and not open up splits surrounding Gordon Brown's challenge for the leadership.

By Graham Dines

LABOUR chairman Hazel Blears went on to the offensive today, using a radio interview to appeal to the party to unite ahead of the May elections and not open up splits surrounding Gordon Brown's challenge for the leadership.

Ms Blears and others in Labour's high command have been irritated to say the least over yet another ill judged intervention in British politics by Peter Mandelson, the EU's trade commission and one of the architects of New Labour.

Mr Mandelson signalled his support for a leadership bid by the Blairite David Miliband, the Environment Secretary who is a personal favourite of Tony Blair.


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Crucial council elections are being held throughout the UK in May, as well as to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

Ms Blears, who will be a candidate for the deputy leadership when John Prescott quits at the same time as Tony Blair, thinks that Labour is uniting behind a Brown leadership bid.

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“If there is a broad consensus across the party, there is no point in simply having division for its own sake,” she told BBC Radio 4.

“People have said the Tories had a contest and that was a great thing. The Tories were trying to reinvent themselves - we are not in that position. We are about building on the last 10 years of a pretty successful government.

She added: “There's a big lesson in politics and that is that united parties win elections, divided parties do not.”

Commons Leader Jack Straw will be running the Chancellor's campaign, and it is believed he is being lined up to take over from Mr Brown at the Treasury.

Two left-wing MPs, John McDonnell and Michael Meacher, have declared their intention to stand against Mr Brown, but it is doubtful if both could secure the nominations of 44 other MPs needed to take part in the election.

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