We are writing this private letter as a group of MPs first elected in 2001, all of whom have been involved in the party and the wider Labour movement for a long time.
We have always believed passionately in the same kind of modern, progressive, electable Labour Party that you do.
The permanent advancement of this kind of dynamic, electorally persuasive Labour party is, and always has been, our project as much as yours. And it remains so.
We can and must win the next general election. To do otherwise would be, unforgivably, to fail in our duty to the party and the country.
Sadly, it is clear to us - as it is to almost the entire party and the entire country - that without an urgent change in the leadership of the party it becomes less likely that we will win that election.
That is the brutal truth. It gives us no pleasure to say it. …
But we believe that it is impossible for the party and the government to renew itself without renewing its leadership as a matter of urgency.
As utter Labour loyalists and implacable modernisers, we therefore have to ask you to stand aside.
This letter, sent in September 2006 by a group of normally loyalist Labour MPs, helped to prompt Tony Blair to announce his coming resignation.
At the time, Labour was worryingly unpopular. Of the 30 published polls in May to September 2006, Labour was behind in 28 – and in three of these, the party was as much as 10 points behind the Tories.
How things change.
Of the 23 published polls since the start of May 2008, Labour’s best performance (in fact in the earliest poll in this period) was trailing by 11 points. In 11 of these 23 polls, the party has been 20 points or more behind the Tories.
And while, in September 2006, 65% of people thought Blair was doing badly as PM and 31% thought he was doing well, last month the equivalent split against Gordon Brown was 78% to 16%.
So, what lesson should the anxious Labour MPs learn? That changing leaders wasn’t the answer in the first place? Or that changing leaders is now more vital to their survival than ever before?
Luke thinks it’s the economy, and Conor thinks it’s the lack of a clear narrative. There’s certainly truth in both views – but can Labour get through this politically with Brown in charge? And if not, how to get rid of him without making the party look even worse? Whom to replace him with? What the hell to do next?