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
5 June: Results from local elections – pressure mounts on Brown
7 June: European election results expose the full scale of the electoral defeat suffered by Brown
9 June: The prime minister is forced from office.
10 June: Labour’s ruling national executive committee would meet and a new timetable would be announced.
The rebels have told the Guardian they think, and some senior trade union officials have even suggested to them, that the trade union involvement could be cut out altogether.
The advice of the three officials has assured the rebels that their shortened schedule would be “waterproofed” against legal challenge by the prime minister.
11 June: The parliamentary Labour party (PLP) would meet and nominate their chosen new leader on the Thursday
12 June: Nominations for leader close.
16 June: Leadership ballot papers are distributed.
29 June: Selection of the new leader at a special conference held by the Labour party
2 July: Brown would formally resign and the new prime minister would be installed.
8 July: First prime minister’s questions for the new leader
21 July Parliament breaks for the summer recess.
This frankly seems a way for the rebels to demonstrate they have the capability to do harm. Their timetable is all predicated on Brown walking. And in order to do this, his enemies must prove that replacing him will not take forever.
But even if we assume that Gordon could be pushed and a contest triggered, there are numerous problems with it. For one thing, how will the unions be bypassed? This is the most important factor in shortening the process. But how would you justify banning union members from postal voting — which is the thing that takes a long time. All those members are sure to baulk at being disenfranchised.
Indeed, it is probably easier to bypass the entire contest than cut out the unions. Firstly, if Brown goes and there is only one leadership contender, an election would not be necessary. The various factions could fall behind Johnson, for example, for the sake of the party.
Secondly, there is the coup clause in the Labour constitution. In the event of the prime minister becoming “permanently unavailable”, this would allow the cabinet, in conjunction to with the NEC, to appoint a successor. They could then decide a ballot would be unnecesary until after the general election. This is the rule:
4B.2e Procedure in a vacancy
(i) When the party is in government and the party leader is prime minister
and the party leader, for whatever reason, becomes permanently unavailable,
the cabinet shall, in consultation with the NEC, appoint one of its members to
serve as party leader until a ballot under these rules can be carried out.
(ii) When the party is in government and the deputy leader becomes party
leader under (i) of this rule, the Cabinet may, in consultation with the NEC,
appoint one of its members to serve as deputy leader until the next party
conference. The Cabinet may alternatively, in consultation with the NEC,
leave the post vacant until the next party conference.