ME and Ophelia
Friday, June 05, 2009
From Daily Mail by Kirsty Walker, 7:28 PM 05th June 2009
Former Cabinet minister Stephen Byers has warned Gordon Brown that his fate could be sealed by Tuesday as rebels threatened to publish the names of up to 100 Labour MPs calling on him to quit.
Arch-Blairite Mr Byers challenged backbench MPs to ask themselves whether Mr Brown would lead the party to victory or defeat at the next general election.
Mr Byers' intervention came as the 'hotmail plotters' stepped up their campaign to force the Prime Minister out of office by launching an apparently coordinated call for him to quit.
The former Transport Secretary said that MPs would 'reflect' on the results of the European Elections - expected to be devastating for Labour - before deciding whether to strike.
Mr Byers said a decision on Mr Brown's future would be reached by 'Monday or Tuesday'.
His comments came as a string of other Labour MPs, buoyed by the shock resignation of James Purnell, took to the airwaves to plunge the knife into the Prime Minister.
They included Nick Raynsford, Paul Farrelly, Graham Allen, Graham Stringer, Siobhain McDonagh, Joan Ryan, Meg Munn, Paul Flynn, Mark Fisher and Clive Soley.
Over the next 24 hours, senior MPs - expected to include select committee chairmen and former ministers - will join the chorus of demands for him to go.
The rebels are now planning coordinated calls for the Prime Minister's resignation during a meeting of Labour backbenchers on Monday night to create a mutinous mood that will make it impossible for him to remain leader.
Many MPs, who want to add their names to calls on Mr Brown to go, have told the rebel MPs that the European election results would provide a valid reason to challenge the PM.
One Labour MP, who is involved in the plot, last night insisted that as many as 100 MPs will have signed the letter calling on him to step down by Monday.
Mr Byers said: 'I think on Monday Labour MPs will be considering a very important question - is Gordon Brown a winner or is Gordon Brown a loser?
'Can Gordon Brown lead Labour to an election victory when the General Election is called or will he lead us to defeat?'
In another day of high drama at Westminster, there was frustration among the plotters that Mr Brown aides were claiming that he had shored up his position after a string of Cabinet ministers rallied behind the Prime Minister.
One leading rebel admitted that cabinet ministers who shared their view had acted 'spinelessly' by allowing themselves to be bought off with new jobs. 'It's very disappointing', said one.
He added: 'You will see more people come out and call on Gordon to go but it will have more impact on Monday when people have had a chance to digest the outcome of the reshuffle and the European election results.
'It will then be possible for people to make their minds up when they know just how bad things are. We hope to have 90 to 100 names to publish on Monday. We are pushing our focus onto the PLP meeting on Monday evening which is now very important.'
Former minister Meg Munn, who was one of the MPs to break ranks yesterday, said: "I am very sad to say that I have come to the view that I think we should have a different leader now.
"I think that what James Purnell put in his letter was right, unfortunately. Although Gordon Brown has done a good job at the start, I don't think he is providing the sort of leadership that the country needs.
'I want Labour to continue in power and I think we need to move on with a new leader.'
Fellow MP Graham Allen said he hoped Mr Brown would 'take the honourable way out so that the party can progress with a leadership election'.
Mr Flynn added: 'We are in a situation now very similar to 1983, when we had a greatly loved and respected leader in Michael Foot but we all knew that, if he had been replaced before the election by Denis Healey, we would have had a better result.'
But leading Brownites hit back claiming that the plot had 'fizzled out' and insisted that the Prime Minister was feeling 'buoyant'.