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

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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before