Here is the reported text of the letter being circulated among Labour MPs (which almost all denied seeing as of this afternoon). Nick Robinson of the BBC has the story.
“We are writing now because we believe that in the current political circumstances you can best serve the interests of the Labour party by stepping down as prime minister.”
It’s succint compared to the parallel letter written by Tom Watson a couple of years ago as the West Bromwich MP forced the exit of Tony Blair.
The Labour Party has been my life since I was 15 years old.
I have served the party at every conceivable level and your own leadership since 1994 in a dozen different capacities, latterly as MP for West Bromwich East, a government whip, and as parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence.
Brown’s camp want it known that Blears and Smith have behaved badly by resigning ahead of the reshuffle – even if the prime minister’s official comments have been supportive and graceful (an attempt to remain statesmanlike.)
So what’s the mood from elsewhere in Labour?
Interestingly, there is a fair degree of hostility towards the resigning MPs – including Bev Hughes and Pat Hewitt – from far outside the Brownite inner circle. Especially as the local elections are only hours away.
One more ill omen: the prime minister will be in France on Saturday. Yes, the same country Margaret Thatcher visited as her party moved against her.
A dangerous time to leave the country? Who knows. Anyway, it is a good excuse to dig out a picture of Mrs T at her final foreign conference in Paris. Brown is probably relieved that he’ll be going to Normandy, rather than the French capital.
Allegra Stratton at the Guardian has her second scoop of the day: a coup timetable. It could apparently all be over by the first week of July.
4 June: Local and European election polling day
Here is the best explanation I’ve seen so far as to how Labour rebels hope to oust their leader. You may remember that their last attempt to storm the barricades ended in bathetic failure last autumn.
Now the plan is to secretly gather names using a form of secret email petition.
Gordon Brown tried to make a point of praising his chancellor in the present tense at PMQs just now – to make up for unfortunate lack of support a few days ago. The suggestion seems to be that Alistair Darling may not be destined for the reshuffle guillotine after all.*
But there was still one lapse into the past tense.
Hazel Blears has become the second cabinet minister to resign in 24 hours. She is skipping PMQs and heading home to Salford this morning to spend more time with “her people” ahead of tomorrow’s local/European elections.
The Guardian calls for Gordon Brown to go:
Labour has a year left before an election; its current leader would waste it. It is time to cut him loose.