Labour MPs urged to rally around leader Ed Miliband

SHAFAQNA – election co-ordinator has urged his party to “pull together”, warning that “divided parties lose elections”.

Douglas Alexander’s remarks came after party leader Ed Miliband was forced to dismiss as “nonsense” claims that some Labour MPs wanted him to resign.

It is understood Mr Miliband’s leadership was questioned at a meeting of Labour MPs from north-west England.

Labour’s Diane Abbott said Mr Miliband was “not going anywhere”.

Meanwhile, two polls have suggested Scottish Labour is on course to lose most of its Westminster seats to the SNP.

Another, by YouGov for the Sunday Times, suggested Mr Miliband was less popular than his Liberal Democrat counterpart Nick Clegg.

Sources say MPs from north-west England discussed moving to a defensive strategy in a bid to hold on to their seats, rather than an offensive one aimed at winning the election.

The BBC has learned that the leadership was discussed on Wednesday, at a regular social gathering of Labour MPs from the 2010 intake.

Whilst accurately measuring gloom is impossible, there is rather a lot of it about among Labour MPs – and more than there was.

It is six months to the day until the general election, and, as opinion polls suggest Labour’s lead is narrowing and Ed Miliband is less popular than his party, some fret this could not just stunt Labour’s progress at the election, but cost them their seats.

But Labour does take comfort from not being the sole home of political gloom. The atmosphere’s sufficiently febrile, the polls sufficiently in flux, to mean the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are not immune from nervy bouts of worry either.

But Labour Party donor John Mills called for MPs to rally round Mr Miliband and do “everything we can to get a Labour government elected in six months’ times”.

He also said it was hard to forecast how the general public would vote because of the rise of parties such as UKIP and the Scottish National Party (SNP).

He told BBC’s Newsnight: “I think the problem is that the whole political scene in this country is fragmenting.

“It’s now much more difficult to get a clear narrative that a large proportion of the population will support – you’ve got UKIP fracturing the right, you’ve got the SNP fracturing the left.”

He also said he thought that Mr Miliband had been picking the right issues to focus on, citing examples such as fuel prices, bankers’ bonuses and the standard of living.

Veteran Labour MP Ms Abbott dismissed the doubt cast on Mr Miliband’s leadership as Labour MPs “whingeing”.

“You don’t take on your brother for the leadership of the party and step down when you’re poised to win,” she said.

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