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Exclusive: Local Labour backs PM

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Labour councillors have given Gordon Brown a much-needed boost.

According to a poll conducted for LGC by ComRes a majority claim the party can win the next general election with him as PM .

The poll indicates 61% of party councillors believe the next general election is winnable with Mr Brown as leader. Just over a quarter (27%) believe the party is destined to defeat without a leadership change, while 12% are undecided. See the results here .

But if Labour were to change leaders, foreign secretary David Miliband and health secretary Alan Johnston are councillors’ equal favourites to succeed Mr Brown. Both were picked by 23% of respondents, with Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas third with 14%.

Despite Scotland minister David Cairns’ resignation just before LGC went to press, the results suggest a lack of grassroots support for a leadership putsch as Labour prepares for its annual conference in Manchester next week.

Writing in this week’s LGC, Sir Jeremy Beecham , leader of the Labour group on the Local Government Association , implores the party to put leadership squabbles to one side. “The last thing Labour needs is a week of navel-gazing and speculation about the leadership,” he writes before criticising the Tories “ill-defined commitment to localism”.

Coventry City councillor Ann Lucas, about to take up her position on the party’s National Executive Committee, said: “With all due respect to MPs and cabinet members, councillors are activists first and foremost and are as good a sounding board as you are going to get. If the leader has 61% support, then you are doing quite well."

Cllrs Beecham and Lucas signed a letter of support for Mr Brown this week but other leading Labour local government figures were less supportive.

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“The figures reflect to some extent the current concerns around Labour’s standing in the country, but may well underestimate how deep the concerns of some people are,” said Sir Steve Bullock , mayor of Lewisham LBC , commenting on the 27% who believed Labour is heading for certain defeat in the polls.

Sir Steve also suggested Mr Miliband would enjoy the backing of Labour councillors if Mr Brown were displaced.

“If there were a vacancy, David Miliband is someone who has demonstrated in the past his understanding and support for local government, which would make him an attractive candidate for many Labour councillors,” he said.

The poll of 125 Labour councillors (a 3% sample) was carried out between 28 August and 5 September, a period in which Mr Brown unveiled a series of measures to boost the economy.

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