They have written to all Labour MPs proposing that the issue of Brown’s leadership be sorted for once and all. Mr Hoon and Mrs Hewitt said the party was "deeply divided" over the leadership. "The continued speculation and uncertainty is allowing our opponents to portray us as dispirited and disunited......... We hope that you will support this proposal [for a secret ballot]."
Brown, who was told of the challenge minutes before he arrived in the Commons, had to wait two and a half hours before any members of his Cabinet came out publicly in his support. It was 3 pm before Woodward, the Northern Ireland Secretary, condemned the move as "a huge distraction that nobody wants". Fifteen minutes later Mandelson, released a statement urging colleagues not to overreact but to carry on with the business of government. Alistair Darling, Alan Johnson and Jack Straw, tonight backed Brown. David Miliband and Harriet Harman have yet to make any comment.
Both Hoon and Hewitt are arch Blairites. Hewitt left Cabinet on Brown’s appointment as Prime Minister citing personal reasons; however Hoon was Chief Whip for a time under Brown.
Philip Webster, political editor of The Times writes that this coup may join the lengthening list of failed attempts to remove Gordon Brown. If the first reactions of Labour MPs are taken as a guide, it appears that Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt may be the wrong people delivering their message at precisely the wrong time. Labour's polling position has improved in recent weeks and there was genuine anger among MPs this lunchtime that the leadership question had been reopened in such a devastating way. It was timed to coincide with the first Prime Minister's Question Time of the new year. Brown knew all about it before he entered the chamber but that did not stop him producing one of his best recent Commons performances against David Cameron.
There was no immediate sign that the coup was gaining traction. That does not mean it will inevitably falter. If the two senior MPs have made their move knowing that a Cabinet minister, or ministers, are ready to join the revolt, then Brown is indeed in severe trouble, possibly fatally so.
Let us hope that the coup fails dismally. Labour’s only chance of success lies with the removal of Gordon Brown.
(I'm having difficulty imagining what they are discussing in the picture above. Fishing stories? looks like whatever it is old Pat's is bigger than Geoff's.)