Martin Bright

Gordon’s Winter of Discontent

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This really is a clever little wheeze from Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt. Why did no one think of a secret ballot before? People have been fixated on Cabinet delegations and rebels instead of calling Gordon Brown's bluff on this most serious of issues - democracy.

The Prime Minister whom no one has voted into office, who stood unopposed for the leadership and who has surrounded himself with unelected ministers is now offered the perfect opportunity to give himself a mandate.

Will he take it? I very much doubt it. My feeling from talking to backbenchers and ministers is that there is now a solid consensus that Gordon Brown is an electoral liability and that he would lose the balllot. The polls also appear to demonstrate that any senior Labour politician but Brown would be be more popular choice with the electorate.

The PLP could, of course, hold a ballot without the say-so of the Prime Minister. But then there's the possibility that Gordon Brown would stay put even if he lost the ballot.