Gordon MacMillan,  UK Politics

Hoon and Hewitt call for secret leadership vote

I thought initially when I saw the Guardian story, detailing  how former cabinet members have called for a Labour leadership contest, I had some how clicked on a really old story.

I couldn’t believe in the run up to a General Election anyone would be suicidal enough to demand a leadership contest.

But this isn’t an old story Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon have sent an email to MPs saying that the parliamentary Labour party is deeply divided over the question of the leadership and the only way to resolve this issue would be to hold a secret ballot.

Oh the insanity of it. I can only conclude that Hewitt and Hoon (a cracking stand-up duo in the making, no?) are concerned that Labour might win, Brown might stay as PM after David Cameron’s faltering start, and to ensure this doesn’t happen they are hoping to start a self destructive leadership battle and sink the party.

Why not blow the Labour Party’s meagre election funds at the bookies while you’re at it and let the air out of the battle bus tyres just to be on the safe side.

Whatever your views on Gordon Brown, and some have been shared here in the past, this is clearly not the time for a leadership battle. The motives of the pair are utterly dishonest, it is the height of disloyalty, and the whole episode is nothing more than two has-beens stirring up trouble. They should be called on it and this contest idea dismissed out of hand.

If you needed anymore evidence then here it is. The move is backed by Charles Clarke and Frank Field. Oh goody.

The Guardian reports that Hoon said he acted “after a number of MPs approached him to air their concerns about Brown’s leadership”. Of course they did, I can feel the altruism emanating from Hoon all the way across town.

Here’s the email in full sent from Hoon’s account today (on behalf Hewitt and Hoon):

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.