Ed Miliband has insisted he will lead Labour into the general election in six months time, following one of the worst weeks of his leadership since he took over the party in 2010.
Thursday and Friday saw Miliband battered by criticism, much of it anonymous, from his own MPs. Senior Labour figures were also forced to deny they were preparing to take over the party should he be forced out.
In a statement posted on Facebook on Friday afternoon, the Labour leader said with the election so close, the party should focus on its "radical alternative programme for government which is clear, costed, and concrete".
"There are exactly six months to go before a general election which will decide the future direction of our country," he said. "We are in the fight for the future of our country and in the general election Labour will show we are equal to the challenges of the time in which we live.
"Labour will fight and win this election street by street, house by house, taking our case to the people on every issue. That is how I am going to be spending the next six months. That is what my shadow cabinet and our MPs will be doing. That is what our councillors, party members and activists will be doing – because that is what they do week in and week out – and they know that is how we win."
Labour has seen its poll lead over the Tories evaporate and the mood in the party has been described as "pretty black". But it is highly unlikely that Miliband will be forced out, despite the glum mood in the party, not least because there is no obvious candidate to replace him.
Miliband's bad week began with a deeply critical attack on his leadership by the normally loyal New Statesman magazine. It was made worse when the BBC reported that behind the scenes some Labour MPs had formally called for him to stand down. One MP told the broadcaster: "What really pi**es me off is he said he would be about content not style, but it's all style and spin, and it's sh*t."
On Friday senior Labour figures including shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna and Peter Hain finally rallied round Miliband.
Andy Burnham was forced to dismiss as "complete and pure fiction" a claim that he was involved in secret talks about what to do if Miliband quits. The Times reported this morning that Burnham and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper had done a deal to take over.
A spokesman for Cooper dismissed the suggestion as "lies... complete and utter garbage" and insisted there was "no foundation whatsoever" in the report.Suggest a correction