His tentative political recovery was derailed even though he appeared to have survived the call by Geoff Hoon, his former Chief Whip, and Patricia Hewitt, the former Health Secretary, for a secret leadership ballot.
A series of Cabinet ministers were sent out to back Mr Brown, but David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary and a potential successor, left a cloud over the Prime Minister by taking seven hours to issue a less than effusive statement saying only that he “supported the re-election campaign for a Labour government”.
Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, also took hours to back Mr Brown and Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, appeared to offer only token support. At the same time there were suggestions that other ministers would have been prepared to back the ballot call under different circumstances. Read in full in the Times.