UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw denied plotting to remove British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today after claims in a book that he told colleagues that Brown “had to go”.
Straw rejected an account by Observer political commentator Andrew Rawnsley that he led efforts to oust the PM in 2008.
In the book, serialised by the newspaper today, Mr Straw is said to have used meetings with critics of Mr Brown such as Charles Clarke, Frank Field and Stephen Byers, to suggest he was prepared to take action.
At one lunch with Mr Clarke, according to Mr Rawnsley’s book 'The End of the Party', he said Mr Brown “had to go” and declared that “something will be done”.
Publicly Mr Straw backed the PM – whose leadership campaign he ran – at a time when by-election defeats had heightened speculation of a coup.
In a statement, Mr Straw denied any plotting.
“It is surprising given the seriousness of this allegation that neither Andrew Rawnsley nor the Observer chose to put it to me at any stage,” he said.
“The period in the late spring/early summer of 2008 – between the Crewe and Nantwich and Glasgow East by elections – was, as everyone can recall, a difficult one for the Labour Party.
“In this period, unsurprisingly, a number of people came to me to talk about their concerns for the party.
“Some of these people wished to see a change of leadership. They have not made a secret of this, then or now.
“But it is untrue that I was ’plotting to oust Gordon Brown’ as The Observer has alleged.
“I have repeatedly made clear that Gordon Brown is the best person to lead not only the Labour Party but also country.
“My confidence has been underlined by events – of which there is more evidence today with the rapidly-shrinking poll lead for the Tories.”