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PM sets date for fightback.

Byline: By ED JAMES

GORDON Brown is to commence his political fightback with a special Cabinet meeting held outside London, it was announced yesterday.

A Downing Street spokesman said the meeting, on Monday September 8, was expected to be in the West Midlands.

Ministers will also be taking part in a series of other events in the region on the day where they will have an opportunity to "engage" with the public.

"We feel it is consistent with the Government's approach that it wants to listen and learn from the experiences of people," the spokesman said.

It was also confirmed Chancellor Alistair Darling was taking over responsibility for coordinating Government activity in London this week while the Prime Minister continues his family holiday in Suffolk.

Mr Darling replaces Deputy Leader Harriet Harman who was the senior duty minister last week.

Nevertheless, the spokesman emphasised Mr Brown continued to remain "closely involved" in dealing with key issues.

While he refused to be drawn on reports that ministers were considering a windfall tax on the energy companies, the spokesman confirmed that helping people who were struggling to pay their fuel bills was now an "absolute priority".

He refused to be drawn on a possible leadership challenge.

Speculation intensified with the news that a group of Blairite ex-cabinet ministers such as Stephen Byers were to unveil their own policy proposals in an apparent attempt to put further pressure on Mr Brown.

It coincided with the leak at the weekend of a damning memo, apparently written by Tony Blair after last year's Labour Party conference, inwhich he accused his successor of a "lamentable" and "vacuous" performance.

MPs will now be watching to see if a potential challenge emerges in the run-up to the Labour Party conference next month in Manchester.

Hazel Blears has been lobbying for Cabinet meetings to be held outside the Westminster bubble".

She proposed it in a speech to the SocialMarket Foundation in May and has urgedMr Brown to adopt the idea.

She said: "We will be taking politics closer to the people and hearing their concerns first hand."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling saidMr Brown was simply following Tory leader David Cameron's lead in taking the Cabinet outside London.

"Gordon Brown doesn't have a single original idea in his head any more," he said.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 5, 2008
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