British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has survived another leadership challenge after colleagues lined up behind him to reject a call for a secret ballot.
In a move that took many by surprise while Brown was speaking in the House of Commons, two former Cabinet ministers began contacting Labour Party MPs, pushing for a leadership vote.
But Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt appear to have misjudged the mood in parliament.
In their letter, they claimed the party was deeply divided over Brown and that the issue must be sorted out once and for all.
But Labour MP John Grogan was not so sure. He said: “I think probably that most members of parliament on the Labour side over the last year, if we are honest, have at some time contemplated: should Gordon Brown lead us into the election? But I think now the collective will is that he has as good a chance as any of clawing back this deficit we have got.”
But while Brown’s top ministers did not back the two rebels, some like Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is often seen as a future leader, were lukewarm in their support.
Miliband said: “I have spent the day doing government business and, as you can see (referring to his briefcase), I have rather more to do. So, thanks very much indeed.”
Brown saw off a bid to oust him last year but the recession and Afghanistan war have cut his popularity. With an election due soon, the opposition Conservatives are currently ahead in opinion polls.