Pressure from within party to replace Miliband

Miliband: doubts over future. Picture: PA

Miliband: doubts over future. Picture: PA

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AT LEAST 20 shadow ministers are close to calling for Labour leader Ed Miliband to stand down, it was claimed last night.

The frontbenchers, none of whom would be named, warned they would make their move if a heavyweight candidate, such as former home secretary Alan Johnson, was willing to take his place.

It comes as pressure continues to mount on the UK ­Labour leader, with MPs growing increasingly concerned that the doubts over his future would prove damaging to the party’s chances of defeating David Cameron.

“A lot of colleagues think he should go, but they don’t think he will,” one Labour MP told Scotland on Sunday. “We need to do this quickly within the next couple of weeks, but we just don’t think it is possible that would happen.”

Another MP said: “If Alan Johnson wanted to stand, you feel it would be all over in 48 hours. A difficulty seems to be that there doesn’t seem to be anybody prepared to step up at this time.”

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Yesterday Johnson ruled himself out of a leadership challenge and called for an end to the plotting, saying the election was “eminently winnable” under Miliband’.

Criticism of Miliband intensified when it emerged that some MPs approached Dave Watts, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, to voice their concerns. “It is true that the number of people who say that there is a problem is enormous,” said one.

Two potential challengers, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, have been forced to deny claims that they had discussed what to do should Miliband step down. But it was reported last night as many as 20 are on the brink of calling for his head. But in addition to the lack of a challenger, the complex mechanism that determines how a Labour leader is chosen is another barrier standing in the way of those who want to see Miliband replaced. To challenge the leader, 20 per cent of Labour MPs (at present 52 MPs) must back a contest. A special conference would also have to be called in order to hold a card vote on the matter.

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