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Under-fire PM's Shadingfield retreat

PUBLISHED: 09:53 29 July 2008 | UPDATED: 07:32 01 August 2010

Gordon Brown tried to put the woes of Westminster on hold this week - and delivered a ringing endorsement to East Anglia's tourism economy.

As Justice Secretary Jack Straw insisted he was "absolutely convinced" Mr Brown should not be ousted, the beleaguered prime minister and his family settled into their two-week summer holiday away from the Downing Street plotters at Shadingfield Hall, near Beccles.

Gordon Brown tried to put the woes of Westminster on hold this week - and delivered a ringing endorsement to East Anglia's tourism economy.

As Justice Secretary Jack Straw insisted he was "absolutely convinced" Mr Brown should not be ousted, the beleaguered prime minister and his family settled into their two-week summer holiday away from the Downing Street plotters at Shadingfield Hall, near Beccles.

Even Labour rebel Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, said it would be wrong to rally against the prime minister at a time when he needed “loyalty” and the chance to create new policies ahead of the party's September conference.

On Saturday, Mr Brown did his level best to win friends and influence people at a carefully stage-managed media call near Norwich to enthuse about the region and what its £2bn a year tourist industry has to offer.

Fresh from his meeting with US presidential candidate Barack Obama, the tired but relaxed prime minister visited Whitlingham Country Park with his wife, Sarah.

He chatted with staff from the Broads Authority, which runs the site, and approached unsuspecting families lounging around the park and watersports centre on one of the hottest days of the year.

“This is a lovely part of the country and there are so many activities to do. I want people to know it's a wonderful part of England to come to,” he said.

“I'm in Suffolk but I want to be in Norfolk, too, and visit some of the beaches, and great sights.

“The great advantage of where we are is that we can visit both counties and some of the great locations you have here.”

Asked how he would be spending the next couple of weeks, he said: “At the beach with my children, some time in the garden, reading, I hope, and at the same time coming to places like this, which are really wonderful.

“I think everybody is ready for a holiday at this time of year.”

“Some people have got very important jobs in the summer and have to work, but the weather's been kind to us so far, and I'm looking forward to spending some time with my very young children.”

Meanwhile, storm clouds appeared to be gathering in Westminster as Mr Straw issued a public warning to MPs that it would be a "big mistake' to plot to remove Mr Brown following reports his allies were preparing for an autumn coup.

Last week's catastrophic loss to the SNP in Glasgow has intensified speculation the prime minister could be forced out in a bid to reverse the Government's plummeting popularity.

“I am absolutely convinced that Gordon Brown is the right man to be leading the Labour Party,” said Mr Straw.

"I was convinced of that when I was his campaign manager last year and nothing that has happened since has changed that view.

"The result in Glasgow East was obviously disappointing but it would be a big mistake for the Labour Party to now turn in on itself and indulge in a summer of introspection.

"We must instead focus relentlessly on the issues which matter most to people, listen to their concerns and work hard to address them.'

He went on: "Gordon Brown is the best leader to lead us through these tough times. He has done so before and he will do so again.'

Several newspapers reported that Mr Straw's close ally, George Howarth, a former minister, was gathering names to support a move against Mr Brown in the autumn.

Unnamed backbenchers said the plan was for Mr Straw, seen as a potential interim replacement, to present Mr Brown with the list as evidence he no longer had MPs' backing.

Mr Howarth told The Sunday Times: "Everybody's got to think long and hard about a number of issues, including policy, the party's popularity and the leadership.'

Dr Gibson said: “I am not aware of anyone plotting against him - and who would the contender be?

“My response would be 'come and have a go if you think you're hard enough'.”

Mr Brown gave a stoic response when questioned about calls to resign at Saturday's briefing

“I'm getting on with the job,” he told reporters.

“I think it's important in these difficult economic circumstances that we take the right decisions for the future - to get fuel prices down, to get food prices down and to get the housing market moving.

“That's my first and major interest - in getting on with the job.”

He added that he and Senator Obama had agreed that Britain and America should continue to work together on tackling challenges around the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East peace process.

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