Matthew Dancona

The Labour leadership plot is brewing

The Labour leadership plot is brewing
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Bits of plaster are already falling off the ceiling over tomorrow's cover story in the magazine, in which (amongst other things) I reveal a plan to launch a leadership challenge to Gordon Brown if Labour's performance in the local and European elections is as terrible as the party's strategists fear.

The idea, as I explain, is for a former Cabinet minister - "probably Charles Clarke" - to test the water and see if he can secure 30 or so signatures from Labour MPs. The plotters are understandably uncertain of their chances and fear (as I make clear) that such a dramatic intervention might be counter-productive, as indeed it might. Nothing is certain, as I say in the piece. But there is absolutely no doubt that such ideas are being actively discussed by senior Labour figures. Of this I am 100 per cent confident.

Mr Clarke has, I learn, denied everything and complained that I did not speak to him. True - and let me explain to CoffeeHousers why: in February 2007, I was tipped off that Mr Clarke was about to make a significant announcement. I called him and he denied the story outright. So I was rather taken aback a few days later when he and Alan Milburn very theatrically launched their 2020 Vision campaign to define Labour's future.

The lesson I learned from that was that it was scarcely worth asking Mr Clarke whether a story was true or not.  He will have to forgive me for not taking his denials too seriously ever since - and for coping with his outrage this evening with equanimity. The air at Westminster is thick with fear and loathing, rumour and denial. Who is telling the truth? You be the judge.