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Breaking news – you could not make it up…

January 6th, 2010 Posted in UK Politics by

Just when we thought that this was going to be the most bizare general election in years – it just got nuttier. Geoff Hoon, former chief whip, and Patricia Hewitt have written to every Labour MP demanding a secret ballot on the Labour leadership.

There is confusion over whether this fits any Labour Party rule book – most analysts are saying in times like this its all about “momentum” and you can effectively tear up the rule book.

This will come down to a test of wills. Will Gordon Brown see off one more challenge? Or, given that Mandelson seems to have fallen out terminally with NO10 – will this be the challenge that succeeds. My guess is it depends whether Gordon can kiss and make up with Mandelson – or not……

Oh fun times ahead.

UPDATE: Patricia Hewitt just appeared on the BBC categorically denying having spoken to any cabinet minister prior to issuing this letter. Does that mean she HAS canvassed support from a number of back benchers? Charles Clarke (ok an obvious anti-Brown figure) has already backed the ballot.

UPDATE: Frank Field has added his support for the ballot.

UPDATE: Suggested date for the ballot is  NEXT MONDAY with the results announced the same day.

peter-mandelsonUPDATE: Nick Robinson is saying (15.16) that it looks like Peter Mandelson is coming to Gordon Brown’s aid sending texts to MPs saying  the ballot demand is a “complete over-reaction” by people outside government and that MPs should back Mr Brown.  So, game over?


Here’s  the letter ….

Dear Colleague,

As we move towards a General Election it remains the case that the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply divided over the question of the leadership. Many colleagues have expressed their frustration at the way in which this question is affecting our political performance. We have therefore come to the conclusion that the only way to resolve this issue would be to allow every member to express their view in a secret ballot.
This could be done quickly and with minimum disruption to the work of MPs and the Government. Whatever the outcome the whole of the party could then go forward, knowing that this matter had been sorted out once and for all.

Strong supporters of the Prime Minister should have no difficulty in backing this approach. There is a risk otherwise that the persistent background briefing and grumbling could continue up to and possibly through the election campaign, affecting our ability to concentrate all of our energies on getting our real message across.
Equally those who want change, should they lose such a vote, would be expected by the majority of the PLP to devote all of their efforts to winning the election. The implications of such a vote would be clear – everyone would be bound to support the result.

This is a clear opportunity to finally lay this matter to rest. The continued speculation and uncertainty is allowing our opponents to portray us as dispirited and disunited. It is damaging our ability to set out our strong case to the electorate. It is giving our political opponents an easy target.

In what will inevitably be a difficult and demanding election campaign, we must have a determined and united parliamentary party. It is our job to lead the fight against our political opponents. We can only do that if we resolve these distractions. We hope that you will support this proposal.

Yours fraternally,

Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt

6 Responses to “Breaking news – you could not make it up…”

  1. Psi Says:

    No. 10 will have the attack dogs out (according to a tip to Guido as of Sunday) and they will be savaging the few rebels and the mindless lemmings that make up the majority of the PLP will contimue to be battered in to following Gordon off the cliff.

    It will all be dead by the end of next week.

  2. Angela Harbutt Says:

    The odds are that it will be dead I agree.

    Gordon Brown has seen off every other challenge and I think the trade unions will be up in arms declaring its unconstitutional etc (as I understand it a challenge has to be at conference and include trade unions and party members if I understand it correctly)if there is any whiff that this has legs.

    But I still think that Mandelson is key.

    So yes Psi I tend to agree – I think we will know by the end of today one way or another.

  3. Niklas Smith Says:

    I didn’t realise that anyone signed letters “Yours fraternally”…

  4. Ed Joyce Says:

    I noticed that Guido had picked up that this was coming on his blog two days ago. He was stating that a cabinet resignation was likely. Where does he get his information ?!

  5. Julian H Says:

    People give it to him because it’ll get the most attention. When I had a story a couple of years ago I sent it to him before anyone else – although partially because all the LD bloggers were at Spring conference and not responding to e-mails.

  6. Angela Harbutt Says:

    As far as I understand it after one or two calls today – Hoon and Hewitt – through intermediaries – had made their plans clear and – in return – had a sense that one or two ministers would support it. Some signs of support from the back benchers was a pre-requisite for their coming out however. When the back benchers failed to “turn out” the minister(s) stayed put.

    I suspect that was why several ministers “went missing” in the early hours of the story – one (maybe two) were considering “stepping forward” if there was some “momentum” and some other ministers (who had some prior knowledge of the plan) did not want to be caught supporting the PM if the tide turned – so went into hiding.

    Guido was almost certainly right – and his source good – but YET again Labour showed a gutless reaction when push came to shove. They will all get what they deserve as a result.