Pressure continued to mount on beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown last night as high- profile Labour supporters questioned his future.
Cabinet colleagues sprang to his defence with Chancellor Alistair Darling warning against “chopping and changing leaders” and insisting Mr Brown was still the best person to lead the party.
But Lord Desai called for the Prime Minister to “admit he is the problem” and stand down as Prime Minister while union leader Paul Kenny warned it had reach “back me or sack me” time after the disastrous Glasgow by-election loss.
Lord Desai said: “He has to admit he is the problem and he has to remove himself. Nobody is going to challenge a sitting leader because that is too damaging a process for the party,” he said.
“Because there is no stomach for a leadership change there is nothing we can do. It is like watching a crash in slow motion.
“I hope we can improve but I don't expect to win the next election. I wouldn't put any money on us winning the next election, the only thing is how badly we lose,” he added.
Mr Kenny, GMB leader, said: “There's no point dressing it up. It was an unmitigated disaster. The MPs have got to make a strong decision as to whether they want to go into an election with Gordon Brown or have a contest.
“Either he goes or he stays. All this whispering behind the scenes must stop and you either back him or sack him.”
Earlier Mr Brown attempted to boost morale at the Labour National Policy Forum, which brings together 55 Constituency Labour Parties and 30 trade unions to consider new ideas and amendments to current policies.
But as well as having to deal with the fall-out from Thursday’s by-election he also faced having to deal with a shopping list of 100 demands from the unions, which now account for the majority of Labour funding.
The Prime Minister said that if the Tories were elected they would push through a £12 billion tax cut paid for by cuts to health, education and other frontline services: “I don’t want to wake up and find that there are massive tax cuts being given to the fewest and the richest and the wealthiest people of this country at the expense of cutting the public services of this country,” he added.
He ended with a rallying call to activists to have confidence in the party’s values, “whatever the setbacks and difficulties” that lay ahead.
“Whatever these difficulties, have confidence that not only do we have the right policies, but when the time comes we will be able to persuade the British people,” he said.