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.
A reminder of why they face an uphill task:
1] The process of formally removing a leader means gathering a fifth of the PLP (about 70 names) in support of a named candidate (ie not just A.N.Other). The fun doesn’t stop there. They then have to hold a vote at a Labour party conference (there could be a special gathering but only if the NEC allows it) which will be put to the unions and party members as well as MPs. So the result is hugely unpredictable.
2] As a result, scenarios being discussed all seem predicated on Mr Brown quitting of his own volition. Given that the PM is renowned for being stubborn, headstrong and single-minded this seems less than likely at present.
Tony Blair agreed to go after a list of critical MPs was gathered (well short of the required 70 threshold, incidentally). But then Mr Blair had already promised to leave and had enjoyed nearly a decade in power. As far as Brown is concerned, he has only just started.
It seems a risky comment to make – given the overwhelming sense of negative momentum in the Commons today – but the rebels are not there yet. Their best hope is still for senior cabinet ministers (Harriet Harman, Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon etc) to tell Brown the game is up. Or for someone else, eg Alistair Darling, to make a “dead sheep” Geoffrey Howe-style speech condemning the prime minister. That still has not happened.