Gordon Brown emerged today as a sick man of Britain but with enough energy to push him on for another couple of months. It is impossible to determine for how long but under the circumstances, he will consider himself very unlucky if he goes before the general election sometime this year.
After a day of meddling and serious leadership plotting, Labour’s civil war deepened further when six Cabinet ministers were accused this morning of backing a failed coup to oust Gordon Brown.
David Miliband, Harriet Harman, Bob Ainsworth, Jack Straw, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander had all allegedly promised to support the call for a secret leadership ballot.
The Labour heavyweights – named by the BBC’s Nick Robinson – apparently pulled out at the last minute, effectively ending the putsch but inflicting devastating damage on Mr Brown.
Foreign Secretary Mr Miliband, seen as Labour’s most likely next leader, was silent for almost seven hours before giving the most grudging of responses to the crisis.
Making no reference to Mr Brown’s leadership, he stated: ‘I am working closely with the Prime Minister on foreign policy issues and support the re-election campaign for a Labour government that he is leading.’
Jack Straw, meanwhile, today dismissed the claim that he would have been prepared to move against Mr Brown as ‘a very sub-standard piece of journalism’.
He insisted that he and other ministers had had no inkling of the coup attempt which had now ‘sunk’.
‘I was astonished – we all were,” he told reporters. “It is something we could have easily done without.’
Bob Ainsworth has also denied any involvement.
Tory leader David Cameron said the wrangling demonstrated why it was time for a general election.
He told the Today programme: ‘You just have to ask yourself, “How much time do you think senior ministers spent yesterday thinking about the budget deficit, about the education of our children, about the war in Afghanistan, and how much were they thinking about their own careers?” for you to realise that, as we’ve put it pretty clearly, we cannot go on like this.
‘We’ve got to have an election and a change of government.’
The plot led by ex-Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, was primed to cause maximum disruption.
The pair sent emails and text messages to all Labour MPs calling for a vote of confidence, as Mr Brown was on his feet for Prime Ministers Questions of election year.
But like all previous attempts to oust Brown, this one too was doomed to failure on the onset. It appeared chaotically organised and ill-timed.