Diane Abbot: These plotters lacked both common sense and principles

David Miliband is the biggest loser of the week. He is not a credible leader

Share
Related Topics

This week's abortive coup by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt would be laughable, if it was not a slap in the face for faithful Labour Party supporters working hard to try and ensure the best possible results in the forthcoming elections. As a colleague of mine pointed out, the last attempt at regime change that Hoon was involved was in Baghdad. That was when he was Secretary of State for Defence. And we all know how successful that was.

This latest coup had all the hallmarks of the summer effort by James Purnell, Hazel Blears, etc. The protagonists have spent so long in the New Labour bubble that they have forgotten they are members of the Labour Party and that we have rules. There is no provision in our rule book for the secret ballot they were suggesting. The current chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Tony Lloyd MP, is a Brown loyalist who would sooner have his finger nails torn out with pliers than agree to such a thing. They had no agreed candidate and no alternative program. And, most important, they had not consulted any further than their own circle of aggrieved Blairites.

I am the secretary of the only functioning left wing group in the Parliamentary Party, the Socialist Campaign Group. Nobody asked us. Key figures in the centre were not spoken to either. Any attempt to remove Gordon Brown, which was perceived by ordinary MPs to be merely right-wing sectarianism, was dead on arrival. This bid was lucky to last the few hours that it did.

Ever since the summer of 2008, Charles Clarke MP (who has always been commendably open about his wish to defenestrate Brown) has carried around a brown paper file with the names of those willing to vote publicly for a leadership contest. Those names have never reached a hundred. And there has been no increase in the numbers over recent months. Clarke knows perfectly well that you could never force a contest under the existing rules.

He perhaps understands this better than the hapless Hoon and Hewitt. Because these were rules Clarke himself helped draw up in the 1980s, in his role as aide-de-camp to Neil Kinnock after the frighteningly (if you were a right-winger anyway) successful leadership bids of Tony Benn. The rules were drawn up precisely to ensure that a successful challenge was virtually impossible. Hence this week's pathetic attempt to bounce MPs into a contest outside the rules. This would have allowed timid colleagues to stab Gordon Brown in the back in the privacy of the polling booth.

And it did not help the credibility of Hoon and Hewitt's proposed putsch that most MPs knew that both of them are resigning at the next election to spend more time with their directorships. (Only Hewitt has declared this publicly).

Credulous journalists were going around Westminster on Wednesday afternoon insisting that Hoon must know what he was doing because he was a former Chief Whip. But Hoon had no more idea of what he was doing this week than he did when he sent our soldiers to war in Iraq. Nor did his extraordinary display of public and pointless disloyalty to the Labour movement sit well with those of us who have been lectured about loyalty by him in his capacity as Chief Whip. (Usually when we were contemplating voting for Labour movement policies and principles, against some New Labour atrocity).

No Labour MP has any doubt as to what Gordon Brown's failings are. He has been a big figure in the Labour movement for 20 years and his character is well known. It was certainly well known at the time in 2007 when he ascended to the leadership. I was one of a small group of left-wing Labour MPs who refused to nominate him. We wanted a contest and a debate about the future of the Labour Party. Meanwhile Hoon, Hewitt, Blears etc were falling over themselves to nominate. They can have no credibility now, when he has terminated their careers, (who says Gordon gets everything wrong?) to start claiming that they have suddenly discovered his flaws.

Of course, the big loser coming out of this week's abortive putsch is David Miliband. Three times he has been called on to rise up and lead a revolt against Brown. Three times he has bottled it. How long can you stay a credible leadership candidate when you have never done anything substantial except be Tony Blair's acolyte, your support is confined to the dinner tables of North London and you patently have no guts?

The good news is that this must surely be the Blairites' last throw of the dice. The mainstream of the party knows that (for good or ill) we now have to rally around the leadership and get on with the election campaign. And it is a blessed relief to know that there will never be a Lord Hoon or Baroness Hewitt now.

Diane Abbott is Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links