Could a resolution make it to the conference floor?
In all the discussion about Labour’s rule-book and how a challenge to Mr. Brown could come about the most clear explanation came in Alan Watkins’s column in this weekend’s Indy on Sunday.
For there has been a lot of confusion over the role of Labour MPs who retain the power to nominate. The critical element, however, is how a contest when the leader wants to stay is initiated and it is here that the role of the leaders of the big trade unions could be crucial.
Watkins wrote: “The rules say: “When the PLP is in government and the leader [is] prime minister, an election shall proceed only if requested by a majority of party conference on a card vote.” There is no requirement for a fancy majority: only a card vote.
The trade unions, however, can still control the conference, even though their voting power has been diminished over recent years. Three determined leaders of large unions would be enough to call for a party election. The Labour MPs could then sit on their hands. They could refuse to be pushed around by assorted Bills and Berts, Dereks and Kevins.”
So the timing of the current unease and the Miliband move could not have been worse for Mr. Brown. Labour’s conference starts in Manchester on September 20th.
This a hard one to read but my guess is that if it got onto the conference agenda then Gordon would stand aside before there was a vote. The big question, therefore, is whether there will be a conference resolution.
September’s political headlines look set to be dominated by news of machinations of those who want a vote and the efforts by loyal Brownites to impede them at every turn.
Perhaps in years to come Brown’s biggest error will be seen to have been the timing of the Glasgow East by-election. If this had taken place after the conference rather than in July then maybe he would have been a bit safer.
All this makes for a very interesting next seven weeks and a lot of betting action.
In the Labour leadership betting David Miliband is at 2/1 with Jack Straw at 7/2 and Harriet Harman at 5/1.