Labour rebel to challenge Brown for party leadership

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Indy Politics

A left-wing Labour MP is expected to announce today that he will challenge Gordon Brown for the leadership of the party whenever Tony Blair quits as Prime Minister.

John McDonnell, the chairman of the socialist Campaign Group and MP for Hayes and Harlington, said that he would make "an important announcement on the future of the Labour Party" today.

At the weekend Mr McDonnell, one of Labour's most rebellious MPs, said that a Brown leadership would allow the Tories to slip back into power - a message sure to resonate with those party members disillusioned by Labour's slide in the polls and its poor showing in May's council elections.

"Some are saying that there needs to be a smooth transition, a coronation, but that would mean no change because Gordon Brown is the architect of many current policies," he said. "It will be Blair to Brown to Cameron because the Tories will be back."

Mr McDonnell, 54, added: "There will be a number of us campaigning to insist there is an election for the next leader of the Labour Party. There will be no coronation." The chairman of his constituency party, Peter McDonald, said that the candidacy would ensure "an open and fair fight". He explained: "This is not a move against Tony Blair - it's a move against New Labour and the way it's formed at the moment. We've had no debate. We in the party have felt very disenfranchised."

Mr Brown and Mr Blair allegedly struck a deal in 1994, following the death of the Labour leader John Smith, that Mr Brown would stand aside and let Mr Blair become leader, who would in turn one day resign and hand over power to his great rival.

Mr Blair has already confirmed he will not fight the next election. Speculation is rife, fuelled by the "cash for peerages" row, that he may not last beyond next spring. He pledged a "smooth transition" to Mr Brown - something that may now be out of his hands.