You know, I was just on my lunch thinking I didn’t really have a lot to blog about and was thinking of penning something lighthearted about the snow in Newcastle. While on my lunch, I watched PMQs and was impressed with Gordon Brown’s relaxed and confident performance in which he – once again – trounced Cameron. So I thought I’d slip in a line or two in praise of his fresh approach to the weekly sessions, though I was struggling to think of a way to segue between the two.
Then the world exploded. My phone went mental with texts about yet another leadership coup. I expected it to be Charles Clarke making yet another unhelpful pronouncement. So I was surprised to find it is Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, both of whom – before today – could be called Labour heavyweights. They announced to the world that they were sending a letter to all members of the Parliamentary Labour Party calling for a secret ballot on Gordon Brown’s leadership.
Now, like I said, if this had been the aforementioned crank Clarke I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. But Hoon and Hewitt, whatever you may think of them, are not naive nor stupid. So my first reaction is what do they know that we don’t? In order for it to be worth sticking your neck on the line for, you need to be confident that some big beasts and current cabinet members are going to come out in support. So far they’ve had Frank Field, Clarke, and Barry Sheerman. Not big beasts in anyone’s eyes these days. There are plenty of backbenchers and junior ministers coming out in support of Brown, but a lot of senior cabinet are still to speak up to now. So time will tell.
My next thought was a secret ballot isn’t possible under party rules anyway! Labour Party rules are fairly clear that for the Parliamentary Labour Party to vote on Gordon Brown’s leadership, 70 MPs have to publicly list their names on a written request. Why ask for a secret ballot when it can’t be held?
Then Hewitt pulls a classic on radio. She actually uses the Conservative party’s general election soundbite of “we can’t go on like this”. I mean, what the f….lip? I thought a leadership rival within the Labour Party was pulling the strings of Hoon and Hewitt, but now I’m thinking it might be Eric Pickles and David Cameron! It’s such a bloody gift to the Tories.
My twitter (@novocastrianrob if you’re interested) has gone mental and the general trend is that these two have made a big miscalculation. The grassroots are behind GB now, whether they were a year ago or not. A leadership contest now would be very very messy. Whoever is behind this little plot – and I’m almost certain it’s not Pat ‘n’ Geoff – need something huge to happen to change the fact that GB will lead us into the general election. And I can’t see Nye Bevan making an appearance to be honest.