Former cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon are urging Labour MPs to hold a secret ballot on Gordon Brown’s leadership in advance of the 2010 general election slated for this May. They have written to all Labour MPs saying the issue must be resolved.
The text of the message states “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.”
Both Hoon and Hewitt are exceptionally experienced political operators who would not make such an unprecedented attach on the leadership so close to a general election unless they had senior level support, most likely from within the cabinet. It is even more likely that they have the backing one of the potential successors to the Brown leadership.
After an apparent split with the Prime Minister and a somewhat bizarre period of political silence, Lord Mandelson has returned to the fold in the last 24 hours which rules him out from any association with the plot. Or does it, there is no more arch a politician in the Labour camp than the ‘dark prince’?
Initial observations say the plot is doomed to failure but either way if such deep divides remain at the top of the party hierarchy this may well extinguish the faint glimmer of Labour sustaining enough seats and votes to avoid outright defeat.