UPDATE: Full letter to the PLP is below:
Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon are calling for a secret ballot within the Parliamentary Labour Party to determine the level of support for Gordon Brown’s leadership amongst Labour MPs.
The letter says such a ballot would determine the leadership doubts “once and for all” – and either move forward with a new leader or allow Gordon Brown to lead Labour into the general election with a rallied party behind him.
The only way to resolve the issue of Brown’s leadership, the letter says, is to allow every member of the PLP to “express their view”.
For Brown’s opponents, this is a much smarter way to try and determine the leadership issue than backstage plotting. Hoon and Hewitt are senoir figures who have not previously called or the PM’s head – and this letter will force Brown and his supporters to act one way or the other. These new developments will bring the issue to a head.
But the point remains: if the asumption that the election will be held on May 6th is correct, and Brown is removed, a leadership bloodbath could ensue.
The full text of the letter is below:
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.
Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt