Current Affairs

Clarke and Milburn deny “stop Gordon” campaign

Tony Grew February 28, 2007
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Two former senior members of the Blair government have denied that they are trying to undermine Chancellor Gordon Brown’s chances of becoming Prime Minister.

However, both Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn refused to say they would not stand against Mr Brown.

The pair have been accused of troublemaking after they jointly launched a website, The 2020 Vision, as a forum for debate about policy.

Speaking at the launch of the site today, Mr Clarke, who was sacked as Home Secretary last year, said that he wanted the Labour party to come up with new ideas.

He wants the 21st century to be dominated by progressive Labour governments, the BBC reports.

“This is a debate about the politics and policies of the future, rather than an intervention in the leadership election,” Mr Clarke said.

“This is not about causing trouble for anybody, it’s not about building up a putative candidature for somebody, it’s not an intervention in the leadership process.”

However, both former Cabinet ministers are seen as Blairites, and both are ambitious.

The pair emailed all of Labour’s 352 MPs calling for an open debate on the way forward after Mr Blair leaves office.

It is thought the Prime Minister will stand down in June, after the local council and Scottish and Welsh elections.

Mr Milburn famously left the government to spend more time with his children, then returned less that two years later to plan Labour’s campaign at the last election, widely seen as a failure.

Early into the campaign Gordon Brown took charge.

Mr Clarke refused to allow Mr Blair to move him from the Home Office, and was sacked last May.

Since then he has been critical of the Prime Minister and the government, unlike Mr Milburn, a former Secretary of State for Health, who is ultra-loyal to Mr Blair.

Many Blairites are anxious about Mr Brown succeeding as Prime Minister.

David Miliband, the urbane 41-year-old Secretary of State for Enviornment, Food and Rural Affairs, is coming under increasing pressure to mount a challenge to the Chancellor.

The question of the leadership dominated this morning’s press launch of the website.

Last week veteran left-wing MP Michael Meacher announced his intention to challenge for the leadership.

MP John McDonnell, another left-winger, announced last July that he would challenge Mr Brown for the job in order to avoid a “coronation.”

The candidates for deputy leader have all been expressing a desire to renew the Labour party.

Front runners have been openly critical of some aspects of Mr Blair’s leadership.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn and Constitutional Affairs minister Harriet Harman are declared candidates.

Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, has had his candidacy for the deputy leadership of the party endorsed by a string of ministers.

Backbench MP Jon Cruddas is also running for Mr Prescott’s job.

He is busy touring the country with a message of grassroots renewal, and could have strong appeal to disaffected party members.

Labour party chairman Hazel Blears announced her candidacy for the deputy job at the weekend, saying the party should not ditch the moderate policies of Mr Blair.

The elections of a leader and deputy are one of the few real democratic processes left in the Labour party.

They will probably take place five weeks after Mr Blair announces his intention to go.

Any MP who wants to stand needs the backing of 12.5% of Labour MPs. At present that means 44 endorsements.

The party uses an electoral college to elect its leadership, split three ways between the MPs and MEPs, the party membership and members of affiliated unions. That means over a million people will get a vote.

Any candidate that gets 50% or more of the vote wins outright, otherwise further elimination ballots will be held.

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