E&E | Leadership challengers didn’t have grassroots support here



And today’s local paper, the Express & Echo published my letter in full, again featuring as the lead letter

Leadership challengers didn’t have grassroots support here

ON whose behalf were the Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt acting when they took their action to destabilise the Labour movement and unseat the Prime Minister? Certainly not mine and many Labour activists here in Exeter, steadfastly working for a fourth Labour term.

Is it yet again an example of the Westminster-centric attitudes of certain MPs that we saw displayed last year around the expenses scandal?

Just as the party began the year with growing confidence, the press was starting to question the lack of Tory policies, a narrowing of the Conservative lead over Labour in some polls and 16 weeks or so to a General Election, who did they think would benefit?

Their treacherous email states: “As we move towards a General Election it remains the case that the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply divided over the question of the leadership. Many colleagues have expressed their frustration at the way in which this question is affecting our political performance.

Yet on the doorsteps and on the telephone, my personal experience of the electorate in Exeter is not questioning the leadership of Gordon Brown. The only way our political performance can be challenged is if we appear disaffected and divided, giving succour to the press and other political parties.

They also claim the leadership election “could be done quickly and with minimum disruption to the work of MPs and the Government. Whatever the outcome the whole of the party could then go forward, knowing that this matter had been sorted out once and for all.”

But they know that if there was a move for change, the whole Labour movement would need to be involved with a one-member one-vote ballot — at the very time we need to be on doorsteps reinforcing our message. Once the result was known, the first and only action that our leader would have to take would be to call a General Election. In the meantime, our Tory and Lib-Dem rivals would be making political capital.

They feel: “There is a risk otherwise that the persistent background briefing and grumbling could continue up to and possibly through the election campaign, affecting our ability to concentrate all of our energies on getting our real message across.”

I believe their actions have stirred up the background briefing and grumbling. Here in Exeter we have spent the autumn with a successful and encouraging programme of canvassing and other events to discover a strong groundswell of support for Ben Bradshaw. Their actions could seriously undermine that strong determination to re-elect our excellent MP.

And finally they acknowledge: “In what will inevitably be a difficult and demanding election campaign, we must have a determined and united Parliamentary party. It is our job to lead the fight against our political opponents. We can only do that if we resolve these distractions.”

Until they threw their tantrum, there was no distraction, we were giving the impression of a serious, determined and united party. But, believe me, it will take much, much more than this to steer us away from strong support of Gordon Brown and the Labour movement.

I hope they are proud of themselves. I plead with them to do the honourable thing — retract their statements, atone for their mistakes and throw their weight behind the Labour Party. Please help us win — for we can win — the forthcoming General Election.

Paul Bull

Cranbrook Road, Exeter

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