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Graham Allen: Brown must go

We must find the courage to make the change

There is only one reason to have an election for Labour Party leader: to increase our chances of winning the next election.

A working-class constituency of former council estates like mine will suffer most if our Surestarts are closed, our school building programme halted, and if our community protection officers, local GPs and our early intervention policies are not funded.

Keeping the Conservatives out is my first priority, as it is for all of my parliamentary colleagues. We have an honest disagreement on how best to do that and have had a swift and remarkably mature discussion which must now reach a conclusion.

This is nothing to do with Blairites and Brownites. It's about Labourites – whether they are MPs or cabinet ministers – seizing the last chance to change before the general election.

As a young Labour official, I was sitting with Jim Callaghan on election night 1979. He told me: "If we lose we will be out of power for a decade."

It turned out to be 18 years.

We have a chance not to repeat our history but to pre-empt it. Voters too have used the council and European elections to spray on the eyeballs of MPs the clearest possible message.

Ignore them, remain paralysed in our default position and we – and those who depend upon us – will pay the price.

Nothing has been harder in my political life than having to confront this choice. I am not one of the "usual suspects". I admire the Prime Minister and proudly nominated him and I believe he has got the economic calls right.

But now it's about more than that. To reverse Labour's current trajectory it is not about administering government but reviving politics. It is about having the skills to reach out beyond those who agree with you to win over those who don't, to empathise with voters, to communicate more effectively our superb achievements and to inspire our supporters with the future which we can offer.

It is also about ruthlessly skewering the hollowness of the Conservative leader, who dreads us making a change more than anyone. Whatever decision is made, I will respect the outcome and get on with winning for Labour. However, today for my party and my constituents, I, like many others, must find the courage to make the change.

The writer is the Labour MP for Nottingham North