Wednesday 25 April 2007

Meacher Breaks Agreement and Launches Public Attack

I am saddened to see that Michael Meacher has broken his agreement that there would be a comradely discussion within the Left on how a Left candidate would proceed to the ballot paper in the leadership election based upon which candidate had the most nominations. People will recall that he gave a public pledge in the Independent that he would withdraw if if he had less nominations than our campaign. In this morning's Guardian he has launched a public attack on our campaign and come out with some outrageous verging on the delusional statements.

I no longer feel I can just remain silent.

Over the last few weeks extensive discussions have taken place with Michael Meacher. Mike Wood MP - who has acted as our Parliamentary team leader - first of all sought meetings with Alan Simpson MP whom we believed was Meacher's campaign manager. Alan denied he was the campaign manager so we then approached Kelvin Hopkins MP but he also declined to play this role. Meetings then took place with Michael Meacher himself because we couldn't find anyone else who was willing to state they were part of his campaign team or state publicly that they supported him.

Basically the situation is that when Tony Blair declares he is standing down there will only be a few days for MPs to send in their nominations. If an MP has nominated, he or she cannot switch their nomination to another candidate unless that candidate withdraws from the election. The nominating MP has no control over this.

So, as there will be little time to secure a withdrawal of candidature and then switch of nominations, we have been desperate to compare nominations with Michael Meacher so that a decision can be taken early on who should drop out and who should go forward.

The problem is that Michael Meacher will not reveal even in the strictest confidence the list of nominations he claims to have secured. His only known supporters - Alan Simpson, Kelvin Hopkins and even Michael's own personal assistant - have confirmed that they have not seen any list.

We appreciated that some MPs will not want to have their names publicised. We have quite a number like that as well. So what Mike Wood suggested to Michael was that we both set out our first dozen or so nominations and meet with each to verify. Then after that we move on to the next dozen and then the next until the person with the least drops out. In fact we have been publishing some of our nominations on ourv website every week. I think the first dozen have gone up with supporting statements.

However Michael has still refused to give anyone sight or publish any names of MPs nominating him.

We are at a loss what to do.

Over the last month Michael Meacher has claimed 50 nominations secured. This then went down to 40. It is now down to 25. In Saturday's Guardian it suggested what most believe to be accurate that he has only two firm commitments. In the Guardian today he claims to have signed statements from 25 MPs confirming that they will nominate him. Nobody has seen these statements. Last year he did circulate a form asking if MPs were in favour in principle of a challenge from the Left and many signed this but this form did not refer to him as the candidate. He has circulated another form more recently including his own name but most MPs have reported that they have informed him that they are not willing to nominate him.

In his letter to the Guardian he alleges that the reports from Gordon Brown's camp in Saturday's Guardian that he has secured only three nominations were published because Brown is promoting my candidature because he is frightened of facing Michael Meacher.

Just make of this what you will but on the basis of this and other statements about the number of nominations secured many are beginning to worry about Michael's judgement.

I believe that we can demonstrate in this election that there is overwhelming support in our movement for the policies the Left is advocating. We can use this campaign to rebuild the Left both within the party and in the wider movement. We can only do that if people display a commitment to the wider movement than personal motives and above all if people behave with dignity that inspires respect.

If there is anyone who feels they can exert any influence over Michael Meacher at this stage please do all you can to assist. His behaviour may well mean that we run the risk that no Left candidate gets on the ballot paper.