Labour Leadership contest revealed
Posted by Ian at 10 00 AM on Saturday, May 8
DAVID MILIBAND and Ed Balls will launch formal leadership bids as soon as Gordon Brown quits as Prime Minister.
The News of the World can reveal the Foreign Secretary and Schools Secretary have quietly put teams in place to launch campaigns later this week.
Two years ago, Mr Miliband was accused of “dithering” after he called for a change in tactics by Gordon Brown but failed to launch a leadership bid.
Now one of allies has told the News of the World: “There will be no delay this time. Nobody wants to be hanging around to see what the party does next.
“The activists want certainty - they want a leadership contest, they want to be involved in the process of finding a new leader and then they want to know how they are going to win the next election.”
The News of the World can reveal Gordon Brown will quit as Prime Minister and Labour Party leader next week as soon as a formal deal is done between David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
Initially, Mr Brown wanted to stay on as Labour Party leader until a leadership campaign was completed.
But his close friends and aides have gently persuaded him it is time to go - and that means Harriet Harman will be asked to take over as a caretaker leader until a permanent replacement can be found.
The News of the World understands some of the Prime Minister’s closest aides - including Lord Mandelson, former Labour leader Lord Kinnock and even Tony Blair - have been trying to ensure Mr Brown can leave with dignity.
A Cabinet Minister who has known Gordon Brown for 20 years told the News of the World: “Gordon knows he has fought his last General Election as leader. He is not refusing to leave Downing Street. He has a constitutional role to play. If Clegg can’t do a deal with Camereon then the Labour Party cannot be leaderless.
“But he is upbeat. For the first time he is allowing himself to think about the future.”
Yesterday, the first Labour MP broke cover to call for Mr Brown to quit.
Bassetlaw MP John Mann, a long-standing opponent of the PM, said: “On the doorstep, throughout the election campaign I found that there was a lot of support for Labour's approach on the economy, health and education, but there was little support for Gordon Brown to be Prime Minister.
“Many stated that they would have voted for me if Gordon Brown was not the Prime Minister and Labour Leader.
“Gordon Brown has had a good run and whilst he was an excellent Chancellor he has been seen as a poor Prime Minister who is out of touch and aloof. Labour lost votes because of this.
“Whatever happens in the next few days, Gordon Brown should not lead Labour into any future election and he should stand down before the next Labour Party Conference.
“It’s extraordinary that the Parliamentary Labour Party has not been convened in this emergency situation.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Schools Secretary Ed Balls are emerging as the only definite contenders to succeed Mr Brown.
Both have decided not to speak about the leadership until a deal has been completed between the Lib Dems and the Tories.
But the News of the World can reveal former Pensions Secretary James Purnell is likely to lead Mr Miliband’s campaign and may go on to act as his chief of staff if he wins.
A communications team and a host of MPs are also planning to act as his supporters.
Mr Miliband is also likely to be supported by Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who has told his own friends he does not want to stand for the leadership as it is time “for the next generation.”
Despite being the bookies’ favourite, Mr Miliband will face a tough fight from Ed Balls.
The Schools Secretary is supported by the trade union Unite, who will send out members to campaign for him.
Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has repeatedly ruled herself out of any future leadership race.
But other Cabinet colleagues believe she may change her mind once the formal process starts.
One MP who stood for the Deputy Leadership in 2007 told the News of the World: “Once the race starts a couple of people could through their hat in the ring and say I’ll have a go, more for the sake of a proper debate than anything else.
“This has to be a full and wide ranging debate on the future of the Labour Party.”
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain and Health Secretary Andy Burnham have both said they would consider standing in the past.
When Mr Miliband launches his campaign, he is expected to spell out a plan to make the Labour Party more in touch with ordinary people, and to communicate better with the public.
He wants to see an end to the squabbles and private character assassination that characterised the Gordon Brown years.
Meanwhile, Mr Balls will say he is the only potential leader with sufficient economic experience.
He will also try to win over the left wing of the Party, which hated the Blair years.
Members of the Labour Party’s NEC say the leadership campaign would be expected to last all summer - culminating in a special party meeting in September.
The new leader would then be installed in October, during Labour’s autumn conference.