EVENTS were moving so fast in Westminster and Whitehall late yesterday afternoon that almost anything, or nothing, may have happened by the time that these words see the light of day. What is clear, however, is not merely that two former senior Labour Cabinet Ministers -- Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt -- have called for a secret ballot on whether or not Gordon Brown has the confidence of the Parliamentary Labour Party, but that they have done this in a way calculated to inflict the greatest possible harm on the prime minister and the party. They are plotters, not the disinterested individuals they claim to be.

There is no provision for a secret ballot in Labour Party rules and it is not clear how Hoon and Hewitt think it might be organised at short notice. Even if it is feasible the question would arise of the value of a vote without any agreed name to replace Mr Brown should it go against him. Any support for the Hoon/ Hewitt move by a senior Cabinet minister could, of course, change the situation. A meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party is scheduled for next Monday. Perhaps a decision should be held over until then. But the bottom line remains the question of how two politicians as experienced as Hoon and Hewitt could possibly think that their action would in any way be helpful to a Labour Party facing a difficult election in a matter of months.


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