Mr Murphy – named as one of six Cabinet ministers who had given tacit support to the failed putsch by former colleagues Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt – strongly denied the assertion, branding it “utter rubbish”.

Nonetheless, the denied suggestion of less than wholehearted support for the Prime Minister from the Secretary of State prompted Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, to call for his resignation.

“At a time when Scotland faces challenges over jobs and the economy, Labour spending cuts and the effects of extreme weather, it is totally unacceptable that Jim Murphy is more concerned with internal Labour Party machinations and his own job,” insisted Mr Robertson, adding: “His implication in Labour’s latest leadership crisis makes his position untenable.”

Mr Murphy hit back through his spokesman, who told The Herald: “Angus Robertson has made a schoolboy error. Jim Murphy was the first Cabinet minister to dismiss the leadership speculation as a distraction.”

He added: “The Secretary of State is putting Scotland’s jobs as his main priority in contrast to Mr Robertson, who is campaigning to destroy 20,000 defence-related jobs in Scotland.”

At Westminster, David Cameron, the Conservative leader, seized on Labour’s troubles, claiming the UK Government was in “chaos”, while Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats said Labour had “lost its way” and would not resolve its difficulties until it was “in opposition”.

Meantime, Mr Brown’s spokesman insisted the PM had the “full confidence of all the Cabinet”, whom he will face today for the first time since the failed coup at the weekly Cabinet meeting in No 10.

Yesterday, several members issued much warmer statements of support for him following their lukewarm efforts on Wednesday. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who had enraged several Labour colleagues by his seven-hour delay in putting out only a tepid statement, declared: “We are all determined to win the next election under Gordon’s leadership and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.”

However, some backbenchers let it be known that the Foreign Secretary’s stock had fallen and he had lost their support in any future leadership contest. One said: “He’s gutless.”

Eric Joyce, the Labour MP for Falkirk who resigned as parliamentary private secretary to the Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth last year, raised eyebrows when he claimed that Mr Hoon and Ms Hewitt had been egged on by “one or two aristocrats at the top end of the party”. While he did not name them, the backbencher did not deny one of them was Mr Miliband.

After he was forced to cancel a tour of southern England because of the snow, Mr Brown launched his “going for growth” initiative before a business audience in London, claiming this was much more important than “any

temporary controversies”.

However, Ken Clarke for the Tories said it was “a bit rich” for Labour to talk about a growth strategy when figures showed manufacturing output had fallen by almost 13% during the recession. “Manufacturing output was steadily rising during the last five years of the previous Conservative government and now it has gone back to its lowest level since 1992,” he added.

Lord M back at crease batting for Brown

APPROPRIATELY enough, the launch of the UK Government’s “prosperity plan” took place in a bunker, deep in the bowels of the Department of Business.

Arriving only 20 minutes late, Lord Mandelson took to the podium to declare: “So much for the distractions, we want to return again to the fundamentals.”

Thus was the latest Westminster drama dispatched to the Mandelson memory banks and, his big sulk over, he was back at the crease, batting for Brown. Yet, of course, no-one believes that the events of Wobbly Wednesday will be forgotten, not least by the people who matter most: the voters.

The Prime Minister, in his crumpled suit and looking his usual dog-tired, nodded enthusiastically as the First Secretary of State spoke to a huddled mass of business leaders and hacks in his cold, lucid way about enterprise, green jobs, industrial competitiveness and the “renewed politics of production”.

Given the PM’s busy schedule, the first peer told the collection of scarves and overcoats: “The Prime Minister has limited time.” Indeed?

Then Mr B took to the microphone and, bless him, made a self-deprecating joke, saying: “Hand on heart, I did not think I would be here to launch this today.” He then added that he had intended to be in the south of England to do it but the snowy weather had prevented him. The captains of industry laughed politely, the soldiers of the press rolled their eyes.

Mr Brown praised the “genius of Peter Mandelson” at which the First Lord of Government slowly raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. Of course, the PM has a lot to thank the other PM for ie saving his skin – twice.

Brushing aside the “temporary controversies” such as Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt stabbing him in the back, Mr Brown launched into his big plan: “going for growth is the number one priority”.

Later, Lord M went before the television cameras and, surprise surprise, was not asked about the growth plan but the failed coup. He coolly described it as “a small day of minor madness”.

He also said that the PM would launch the General Election “later this week”. Does Gordy know? Does the Queen?

When the slip was pointed out, the first peer’s eyes widened. “What like tomorrow? Isn’t it funny the things you say?” he noted. You heard it here first.