Gould urged to challenge Beckett

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The Independent Online
BRYAN GOULD, who resigned from the shadow cabinet last year over Labour's policy on Europe and the economy, is contemplating an attempt to oust Margaret Beckett as deputy leader.

Mr Gould is being urged by close colleagues to make a mid-term bid for the deputy leadership. Mrs Beckett got the job on a union-backed 'dream ticket' with John Smith last July.

Mr Gould, Labour's leading Eurosceptic, and an unsuccessful contender for the leadership in last year's contest, would introduce a volatile new element into conflicts over the future direction of the party. It would be the most high profile challenge to a sitting deputy leader since Tony Benn took on Denis Healey in 1981.

The 54-year-old MP for Dagenham strongly criticised Labour's current strategy in a Tribune column last week. He said that Labour should commit itself to 'running the economy in the interests of our potential voters rather than worrying constantly what the City thinks of us.'

Mr Gould's chances of securing nomination for the deputy leadership would be increased by a rule change which the party conference is expected to approve this autumn. A candidate would need nominations from one-eighth of Labour MPs, when the party is out of power, instead of one-fifth as at present. Mr Gould would therefore require the initial support of only 33 MPs.

Although Mr Gould was heavily beaten for both the leadership and the deputy leadership last July he may have a better chance next year. Some potential supporters will see the Government's withdrawal from the ERM last September as a vindication of his earlier reservations about Labour's support for it. And, even on the loyalist wing of the party, there have been some rumblings over Margaret Beckett's effectiveness.

Although he has been a moderniser on internal party democracy, Mr Gould could also pick up support from some Tribune group leaders. They are at odds with Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, over economic policy. They want sharp tax rises for people earning more than pounds 50,000 a year; Mr Brown said last week that Labour was 'not against wealth'. Mr Gould says in his Tribune article: 'The collapse of ERM gives Labour the chance to break with Euro-monetarism and the defeatist view that we can't run the economy ourselves.'

(Photographs omitted)

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