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Hoon and Hewitt on the leadership bid

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 06 January 2010

Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, the main plotters behind today's bid to oust Gordon Brown, explain that they want "to clarify continued questions about the leadership".

Geoff Hoon (picture: Reuters)

Hoon and Hewitt sent a letter to all of their fellow Labour MPs asking them to support a secret ballot before the general election is called.

Inevitably some MPs have said they would welcome a ballot while others have reacted angrily towards Hoon and Hewitt, claiming their move will divide the party with the election looming.

Geoff Hoon said: "Colleagues have been complaining to me, expressing cnocerns that we are simply not getting our message across as a political party because of the continued doubts and concerns about the leadership.

"I think this is an opprtunity for the Labour party to resolve this matter once and for all. It can be done quickly and easily. I don't understand why anybody would oppose the idea of a secret ballot.

"It would allow the Labour party to unite prior to what is going to be a difficult election campaign.

"We have elections and secret ballots to give us a clear result and that's really what we're calling for.

"Patricia Hewitt and I came back from our vacations and our constituencies where we talked to our party members and constituents and we have had that message consistently: 'Why is the Labour party not getting its act together and presenting a clear united front?'.

"Part of the problem is the continued questions about the leadership, which we must resolve.

"I accept there will be people who have strong opinions one way and the other.

"I have never been involved in this before, I have never said this before, I believe the time is now right because of the prospect of an election this year and because of the continuing uncertainty among Labour MPs. It is the right time to resolve this matter now.

"I don't believe it is a question of deciding a credible candidate, we had an extremely good, effective, thoughtful deputy leadership election and it did the party a power of good to debate those issues debated in public and I believe if it came to that it would be the case again in the future.

"I think it's for the parliamentary Labour party to deicde how soon this could be resolved.

"I've scarcely appeared in the media over the past six months. I've been busy on other matters, working hard on behalf of my constituents.

"I have to say I have come back from my constituency at the end of what has been quite a long parliamentary recess and the message I've had has been absolutely clear from party members and constituents: 'the Labour party must get its act together and resolve these matters as a matter of urgency'."

Patricia Hewitt said: "I've had a number of text messages and emails supporting the letter and I have had some criticising it and I think that was to be expected.

"Geoff Hoon and I thought very carefully indeed, as you would expect, before doing this and we have become increasingly worried about the very obvious division that exists within the Parliamentary Labour party on the leadership question.

"There have been public calls at fairly regular intervals for the prime minister to go and there has been quite a lot of private disquiet as well.

"Our view is that there is one very simple and quick way to resolve the issue and that is to have a secret ballot of Labour MPs with the clear understanding that once that happens, everybody gets behind the result.

"Geoff and I are not calling for the prime minister to go, we are calling for Labour MPs to be given a secret vote on the leadership question.

"The reason we are doing this is because we can see that if this doesn't happen, we could go into the election over the next three or four months with more division, more private briefings, more speculation, every speech by a Cabinet member interpreted as a coded attack or otherwise on Gordon Brown.

"Within a couple of hours of us returning from the Christmas break the rumours had started up again, this time about a supposed resignation from the Cabinet that was going to happen.

"The way to bring all this to an end and unite the Labour party fighting aganist the Conservatives in the next general election campaign is to have this secret ballot and resolve this matter once and for all."

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