PUBLIC-SECTOR union UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis gave his support to Labour Party chairman Ian McCartney yesterday following rumours that arch-Blairite Alan Milburn was set to return to the Cabinet.
Mr Milburn is being tipped to take over as party chairman in an imminent reshuffle and his fellow Blairite, Health Secretary John Reid, added to the speculation at the weekend by saying that the government had missed his skills.
Rumours at Westminster suggest that Mr Milburn - who quit in June 2003 to spend more time with his family - could be made outright chairman of the party, taking over from Mr McCartney, who has come under fire over Labour's poor performance in June's elections.
However, Mr Prentis said that Mr McCartney was an effective operator and a real friend to the trade unions and grass-roots Labour members.
"He worked hard behind the scenes to heal the rifts within the party," Mr Prentis said.
"Without his efforts, the divisions between us and Cabinet ministers would have widened.
"We continue to support Ian. What we need more than anything in the run-up to the election is stability," he said.
Foreign Minister Alistair Burt's admission that the Cameron government has "supported" a survey of attitudes to US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas amounts to a tacit admission of British involvement.