One loyalist MP tells me it will be “bloodsport” tonight at the PLP as people vent their spleen against the authors of last week’s ill-fated rebellion.
But I think it’s a fair bet that Geoff Hoon and Pat Hewitt have the sense to stay away from the regular meeting of backbench Labour MPs. Hewitt is going to be at a committee on parliamentary privilege which runs from 5pm to 7pm. I’m sure Hoon will also have other engagements.
The 6pm meeting will drag on because it won’t just be Brown speaking. Lord Mandelson, Harriet Harman and Douglas Alexander will also to speeches – on the coming election – ahead of the usual backbench questions.
It would be a major surprise if the loyalists don’t get more than their fare share of the limelight. Tony Lloyd, chair of the PLP, has shown himself to be a kneejerk Brown supporter.
As such you can expect plenty of comment along the lines of my fuming loyalist, who describes last week’s non-coup as “monumental folly”. “I’ve never seen so much anger in my constituency or within the PLP,” he says. “People are furious with them both.”
It will be an exercise in circling the wagons: “I can already hear the banjos and smell the campfires,” says one Labour source.
Other MPs I talk to say the timing was just bizarre; given Cameron’s stumble last Monday on marriage tax allowances and given Brown’s decent enough showing at PMQs on Wednesday.
One ponders whether Hoon, as a former chief whip, had spent too much time soothing angry rebels – and so had over-estimated their numbers. According to this theory, he had failed to notice the scores of MPs who were quietly getting on with business.
And so it came to pass. Labour’s top brass put on a show of forced bonhomie. The backbenchers sat through it all without complaint (“through gritted teeth”, according to one of them).
For our story this morning with the full details of last night’s PLP read here.