Some hacks aren’t so sure. Not only did the Cabinet take far too long to back their leader, but the statements of support from Miliband, Mandelson, and Darling are devoid of any praise for the Prime Minister, which indicates that they’re not so keen on him staying.
David Miliband’s was weakest, saying “I am working closely with the prime minister on foreign policy issues and support the re-election campaign for a Labour government that he is leading.” He doesn’t actually express support for the Prime Minister, let alone praise.
Alistair Darling said “As far as I’m concerned we should be concentrating on the business of government and getting through the recession.
“The PM and I met this afternoon and we discussed how we take forward economic policies to secure the recovery. I won’t be deflected from that.” Again, no praise, and I wonder what he secured from Brown at that meeting.
But evidently no-one in the Cabinet saw this as their moment to remove him. The secret ballot idea looked easier to sell than forcing Brown from office outright, but Hoon and Hewitt have still been greeted with contempt from many Labour MPs and from grassroots, and failed to gain the backing of a cabinet minister. Labourlist have got hold of some strongly-worded emails sent to Hewitt and Hoon from backbenchers, Twitter and Facebook are fizzing with the irritation of ordinary Labour members. Potential plotters wouldn’t have wanted to open themselves up to this kind of sentiment and it wouldn’t bode well for a leadership attempt.
Thus it appears this particular bid has fizzled out, but the determination to remove Brown is still there. This is why many self-respecting commentators refuse to write this off, and newspapers are holding on before they finalise their front pages.
PS. It’s worth noting that not just Brown has been weakened by this. David Miliband took so long to support the PM and released such a weak statement that he is still open to accusations of disloyalty but without the payoff he wanted. Politics is no place for dithering.