Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Monday, 8 June 2009 15:47 UK

Brown prepares for crunch meeting

Houses of Parliament

By David Thompson
Political correspondent, BBC News

To be honest, gatherings of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the PLP, are often a bit of a let-down, journalistically.

What happens is, on days of high drama, we all congregate outside the room in the committee corridor of the House of Commons where the meeting takes place and wait with bated breath for the sound of raised voices and breaking furniture.

Nine times out of ten, we are bitterly disappointed. The only voices we hear are those laughing sycophantically at the leader's jokes. The fixtures and fittings are only in danger of being damaged from over-enthusiastic expressions of support for the party line.

Tonight could be a bit different - not because there is going to be an angry lynch mob waiting for Gordon Brown, but because it will be the first time a serious number of Labour MPs will be gathered together in the same room at the same time.

Tight spot

A substantial number of his flock would like to get rid of their leader. Forget the usual suspects and the souls brave enough to put their heads above the parapet - there are a lot more out there who would dearly like to see him go.

But equally, there are people like Phyllis Starkey, the MP for Milton Keynes South West, who think their colleagues are having a collective nervous breakdown, should pull themselves together and get behind Gordon Brown.

A new leader would almost certainly mean a snap election

The shouting match may be between the two extremes rather than at the prime minister, who, while in an undoubtedly tight spot, does have a number of things going for him.

It is actually pretty hard to get rid of a Labour leader - you do not just have to have 71 people saying he should go, the same people must also be behind a single alternative candidate. At the moment, there is not a candidate for the rebels to rally round.

Secondly, while the dismal local and European election results might increase the pressure on Mr Brown to go, perversely, they also increase the argument against his departure.

A new leader would almost certainly mean a snap election. If you were a Labour MP, would you want to face the voters in the middle of a recession and at a time when they are still furious about the expenses scandal?

Whatever happens tonight will be significant, but will it be decisive?

Guessing where Labour and their leader will be after tonight's PLP meeting would be a mug's game. Even if Gordon Brown plays a blinder tonight, it is also not the end of the story. There are two tricky by-elections coming up in Glasgow North East and Norwich North.

Then there is the plan to sell-off part of the Royal Mail. Concessions are in the offing which Ministers hope will get at least some rebels to swing behind the government, but there is still likely to be a major backbench rebellion.

Then there's the Labour party conference in September.

Whatever happens tonight will be significant, but will it be decisive?

Probably not - but no one, from Gordon Brown down really knows - which is what makes this gathering of the PLP, for once, fascinating.

Print Sponsor


MEP Seats

  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
BBC political editor Nick Robinson Nick Robinson
Follow the BBC Political Editor's assessment of developments
Harriet Harman on the big screen on the Breakfast set Harman defends 'dismal' result

David Cameron Cameron 'delighted' with results

Nick Clegg Clegg: Results 'a good platform'

Nick Griffin Jubilant BNP hails 'great victory'

Nigel Farage UKIP: A hell of an achievement


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific