Just as Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and grassroots activists are clamouring for a say in shaping the next government, Labour Party MPs and members have been active too. Media reports of a growing chorus for British Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Gordon Brown to resign now are greatly exaggerated. Statements from re-elected Labour MPs John Mann, Graham Stringer, and most recently Kate Hoey all calling for Brown to go now, are not representative of party opinion as I understand it, not while there is still a possibility of Labour playing a role governing the UK.
There are reports of Cabinet ministers meeting later this afternoon. The Cabinet now has no authority to act on behalf of the Labour Party. Brown is a caretaker Prime Minister and his government likewise. Ideas that the Cabinet plotters could exploit a provision in the Labour Party Rule Book to change leader as reported by this week's Tribune is fanciful in the extreme. Yes, public opinion garnered by the Murdoch media says nearly two-thirds of those polled want Brown to resign - surprise, surprise. (Capital punishment was supported by nearly half of those polled last time a representative UK sample was conducted.)
I have been calling for a meeting of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) this coming week. Last night, notice of a conference call was circulated. Since half the NEC is due to meet on other business in London that day, a proper meeting ought to be within the Party's capabilities. Formal requests have been submitted. Newly elected MPs, as arrangements stand currently, are going to have to wait until next week before they have their first Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting. Apparently, the ever thoughful whips suggested they should all grab a well-earned holiday since Parliament doesn't reassemble for a couple of weeks. Of course, they are not the sort of people who might want a say in shaping events after the election. So the plotters thought. We'll see.
It is vital that the Labour Party's position whether in government or opposition, is properly discussed; not just in the Parliamentary Labour Party, and the NEC, but with the Party's members around the country. This would be best achieved if the chair of the PLP and the NEC both had roles in any talks with other parties.
PLP elections will be held as soon as it meets. The Rule Book does not cover the possibilty of a coalition. In the circumstances there would seem to be a very good case for using the rules that apply when the party is in opposition, further cutting off oxygen to the plotters. That would give all Labour MPs the opportunity to vote not just for the PLP chair, but the 19 members of the 'shadow cabinet' creating a talent pool from which ministers could be selected if Labour finds itself continuing in government. Nominations for the position of Leader and Deputy should be invited whatever, as required under Rule 4 2 B ii. This will help restore the legitimacy of the Party's leader/deputy, whomever they might be. If Labour can continue in government, Brown would deserve and should get the Party's backing to cement recovery and pave the way for major political reform as set out in our 2010 Manifesto. But that would not preclude a leadership election within 6 to 18 months, given the uncertainty likely to surround the new government. Who leads the Labour Party is our decision, if anyone out there wants to 'Join In' the next leadership contest, is very welcome to Join Us (and that includes Nick Clegg.)