The prospect of a revolt by Northern Rock shareholders today will not force Gordon Brown into making a snap decision on whether to nationalise the troubled bank, government officials said yesterday. Financial Times

Brown is in daily contact with Alistair Darling, chancellor, on whether a private sale can still be achieved, but officials downplayed speculation he could take a final decision before leaving for China later this week.

Ministers are bracing themselves for the sight of small shareholders at Northern Rock airing their grievances at an extraordinary meeting in Newcastle today, fearing the bank could be sold at a knockdown price or put into public ownership.

But ministerial aides say the gathering will have no bearing on the bank’s fate and that Mr Brown and Mr Darling were still actively considering 'a number of options' including a private sale.