Brown to be ‘appointed’ Labour leader

Gordon Brown will not face a party vote for the Labour leadership if a viable candidate does not emerge to oppose him.

The Labour party national executive committee (NEC) decided today Mr Brown will not have to take part in hustings and seek an affirmative vote for the Labour leadership if he is the sole candidate.

Instead he will be appointed Labour leader and Tony Blair’s successor as prime minister.

Michael Meacher and John McDonnell both intend to challenge the chancellor for the leadership but it has been questioned whether they will have the support of 44 MPs necessary to appear on the ballot paper.

Despite this a spokesman for Mr Meacher today said he was still confident of challenging Mr Brown for the leadership.

Tony Blair is expected to announce his departure after the Scottish and Welsh election, on May 5th or 8th.

The NEC met today to discuss the timetable for the election of Labour leader and deputy leader when Mr Blair and John Prescott step down.

It approved a seven week campaign, where Labour MPs, party members and trade unions will be sent nomination forms immediately after Mr Blair announces his departure. This will be followed by six weeks of campaigning, the final three of which will see hustings take place across the country.

Against expectation the NEC decided today Mr Brown will not be made to take part in this campaign if he is the sole leadership candidate.

Following hustings, the Labour party will convene a special conference to formally declare the result of the leadership contest. The conference will take place immediately after Mr Blair returns from his final European Council meeting on June 23rd.

Although the conference could be put back until June 30th, it is thought Mr Blair will tender his resignation to the Queen as early as June 25th and his successor will immediately follow him to Buckingham Palace to be formally appointed by the Queen.

Peter Hain claims to be leading the race for deputy leader, citing the support of at least 32 MPs, more than any other candidate.

The Northern Ireland minister will face competition from education secretary Alan Johnson, party chairman Hazel Blears, international development secretary Hilary Benn, constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman and Jon Cruddas.