The news is leaking out of a substantial rebellion — “carnage” said one report — at last night’s parliamentary party meeting in opposition to the decisive action taken over Phil Woolas, suspending him from membership following the decision of the election court. In the absence on paternity leave of Ed Miliband, Hariet Harman has been the object of much of the criticism. Nevertheless, it is the clearest indication yet that Ed Miliband cannot count on the loyalty of the parliamentary party and needs the backing of the Left.
The BBC’s John Pienaar said on Five Live:
Deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, faced a backbench revolt at last night’s private meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. According to one MP present, Ms Harman was described to her face by one colleague as “a disgrace”. Another suggested she should “consider her position” – political code for resignation. A former Cabinet minister, speaking privately, said, “I have never seen anything like it. Harriet was attacked from every direction.” Mr Woolas’s supporters include MPs from every level of the party – including some of Labour’s most senior figures from the last Cabinet.”
David Watts MP, speaking on the World at One and one of those prepared top speak on the record, said:
If action is being taken it’s for the NEC and the PLP to take a decision rather than individual members. I would expect Harriet and everybody else to back Labour party rules and make sure they comply too.”
Paul Waugh reports an “old sage of the backbenches” explaining the support for Phil Woolas:
He’s a social guy, he’s one of the Strangers [Bar] crowd, a constituency that you can often see reflected in PLP votes. He’s from the North West, where we have a big chunk of MPs. And he’s a GMB man. Put all that together and you can see a lot of different networks behind him.
Moreover, many colleagues are now up against feral Lib Dems who regularly use personal abuse. The idea that one of ours should be taken down for hitting back is going down very badly.”
Some MPs seem to be circulating rumours that Labour would put forward one of Mr Miliband’s key aides to contest the seat, but we believe that this is without foundation. It is also being suggested that Labour party general secretary Ray Collins had disagreed with Ms Harman over the rules governing the suspension of MPs. According to our sources, the decision to suspend Phil Woolas was taken by four people: Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman, Rosie Winterton (Chief Whip) and Ray Collins who were all in agreement.