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A big beast prowls Westminster again

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mandelson.jpgGordon Brown was always expected to reshuffle his cabinet this week, but Friday’s series of chessboard moves were more dramatic than any commentators were predicting.

The most interesting shift is that of Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, back to Britain to take on the role of business secretary in the cabinet, probably with a focus on managing the fallout from the economic crisis.

Mandelson was for years an arch-enemy of Brown’s in former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet. The two rarely saw eye-to-eye and Brown’s deputies were open in making clear their dislike of Mandelson’s rival power-base to Brown’s at the Treasury.

A devoted-Blairite, Mandelson was dubbed the “Prince of Darkness” for his behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.

Truly, madly, deeply: They loved New Brown

Labour was destined for defeat at the next election and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he wasn’t going to step down.

The Labour Party conference in Manchester had been predictably subdued.

The only story in town had been who was going to have the guts to turn Judas.

And to cap it all off, there was to be a speech from a man renowned for repeating anodyne phrases like “long-term decisions” and “sustainable future” ad infinitum.

Brown needs Darling in these troubled times

    One thing looks certain after Alistair Darling’s speech to***the Labour Party conference on Monday — he’ll be Chancellor of***the Exchequer for a while yet.******    Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to reshuffle his***ministerial team next week and there’s been a lot of speculation***that Darling could lose his job and be moved to another***department.******    The silver-haired finance minister has had a rough ride***lately. The economy is on the brink of recession and his***comments in a magazine interview saying the economic challenges***were the greatest in 60 years caused a furore and were blamed***for sinking the pound.******    But delegates at the Labour conference today just loved him.***They stood and clapped and then they clapped some more after***Darling hit out at unfettered capitalism and the huge payouts***given to bankers that he said helped cause the credit crunch.******    Darling looked genuinely embarrassed. He called for them to***stop but the delegates just went on. Besides modesty, the***finance minister had another reason for wanting them to stop.******    He had another type of conference call to attend to. A G7***one. The finance ministers and central bankers of the rich***nations club were having a hastily-arranged telephone chat at***1230 London time to discuss the latest bout of market turmoil.******    Given London’s position as one of the world’s top financial***centres, Darling could hardly miss out and he rushed off the***stage to get on with his G7 buddies.******    The crisis also looks to have cemented Darling’s position.***It would seem odd to remove the finance minister when the whole***world financial system is in the middle of the biggest upheaval***in a generation.******    With Brown making his economic experience a key selling***point, he needs Darling on side.

Labour “lemmings” on tour in Manchester

Britain’s foreign minister David Miliband says he does not want a leadership fight.

But his speech to the Labour party conference in Manchester on Monday was hardly rammed full of ringing endorsements for his Prime Minister either and it won’t end the whispering.

Deja vu as infighting stalks Labour

    It was the last thing diehard Labour activists wanted voters
to see as the spotlight falls on the party in Manchester this
weekend – two of Labour’s best known veterans bickering on
Sunday morning television over whether Prime Minister Gordon
Brown should stay or go.

In fact, most of the party’s foot soldiers would much rather
those in power got on with trying to find ways to help families
get through what could turn into a nasty recession and pull
together to give Labour a fighting chance at the next election -
which has to be called by May 2010.

Labour aren’t singing anymore

  Unsurprisingly, it’s a totally different mood at this year’s Labour Party conference in Manchester.Last year in Bournemouth, they talked about crushing the opposition Conservatives for a generation as the party celebrated a 10 point lead in the polls under their new leader Gordon Brown.

Many were urging Brown to make the most of it and call an early election before the economy turned down. He really must be wishing he had.

Charles Clarke keeps out of Brown debate

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Charles Clarke refused to fan the flames of the Labour Party revolt when he attended a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Bournemouth on Sunday.

Charles ClarkeThe former home secretary was appearing a day after Prime Minister Gordon Brown sacked his second senior party member in two days for breaking ranks and calling for a leadership contest.

Is the energy package enough?

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EnergyGordon Brown has unveiled an energy package designed to give some relief to householders struggling with ever-rising gas and electricity bills.

The six major energy suppliers will contribute to a one billion pound, three-year energy-saving initiative — but will not face a windfall tax on their profits.

A bigger role for unions?

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The trade unions are getting tough and threatening a wave of strikes this Winter unless Gordon Brown takes action to ease the effect of the economic downturn on their members.

At Brighton this week, union leaders will attack the government’s policy of pegging public sector pay rises to the official 2 percent inflation target, when inflation is actually running at 4.4 percent and expected to jump towards 5 percent  as food and fuel prices rise.

Is the housing package enough?

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housing.jpgThe government proposes to stimulate the housing market by scrapping stamp duty for a year on purchases of homes worth less than 175,000 pounds.

At the moment, the no-tax threshold is 125,000 pounds.

The government also plans to offer cheap loans of up to 30 percent of the purchase price of a house for first-time buyers. Households earning less than 60,000 pounds a year will not have to pay interest for five years on the loans, providing they buy newly built properties.

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