PLP chair Tony Lloyd has this evening emailed all Labour MPs attaching a letter to him from Ann Black, chair of Labour’s ruling national executive committee.
In it, she reports “widespread concern among party members that this leadership election should allow the broadest possible debate”.
This will add to pressure on the 44 Labour MPs yet to declare to nominate Diane Abbott, and on John McDonnell to stand aside in her favour. The deadline for nominations is 1230 tomorrow (Wednesday).
This is the full text of Ann Black’s letter to Tony Lloyd:
To Tony Lloyd MP
Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party
4 June 2010
I am writing to pass on widespread concern among party members that this leadership election should allow the broadest possible debate. This is not just about choosing an individual. It is about the flavour of the contest, and the opportunity to debate the full range of ideas, policies and directions for the future, before thousands of members and millions of affiliated trade unionists cast their votes.
If the choice is between three or four white male ex-ministers in their 40s, however able, it will be seen as lacking the full range of diversity which Labour seeks to reflect. If, however, it is extended in terms of gender, race, political perspective, the hustings through the summer will generate greater interest and engagement from party members, supporters and voters. And whoever emerges as the winner will have a far stronger mandate to lead than if the system can be portrayed as rigged in their favour.
My correspondents are not from any particular “camp” and many are likely in fact to vote for one of the current front-runners. They are mainly interested in the health of the party as a whole, and in avoiding the difficulties which followed 2007, where many believe that the leader’s position would have been reinforced if he had taken on opposing arguments in an open contest and won through in a ballot.
I have explained the rules to all of them. I do not think the threshold of one-eighth of all Labour MPs is unreasonable, and in 2007 the same threshold produced a deputy leadership election with six validly nominated candidates. In any case it is for Conference, not the NEC, to change the party rulebook.
So the decision on who goes forward to the hustings and the ballot is now entirely in the hands of Labour MPs. It has been made clear that MPs who nominate a particular candidate are not bound to vote for that candidate in the second stage, and I hope that you will all give serious consideration to the groundswell of feeling from members and affiliates in the country in deciding whether to extend or to limit their choice.
Chair, National Executive Committee