Ed Miliband facing plot to oust him as Labour leader
Ed Miliband has been forced to try to head off a move to oust him by Labour backbenchers who fear the party is heading for defeat at next May's general election.
It is understood that at least three MPs have told Dave Watts, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) that Mr Miliband should quit for the sake of the party.
"There is a crisis of confidence in him in the PLP," said one senior MP.
While the Labour leader dismissed the idea of a plot against him as "nonsense", one Labour insider said the critics plan to persuade 100 backbenchers to sign a letter calling for a change of leadership. They hope the Shadow Cabinet would refuse to rally behind Mr Miliband - in effect, a vote of no-confidence that would force him out. If that happened, critics claimed, the shadow cabinet would anoint a new leader in a "coronation" to avoid a divisive leadership contest.
One source claimed that "active canvassing" was under way yesterday on behalf of Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, and Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary.
There is no evidence they are encouraging such moves. The other possible leader would be Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary who left the Shadow Cabinet four years ago and insists he does not want to return to front-line politics.
Several Labour MPs admitted morale in the PLP is at "an all-time low" after the party's opinion poll lead over the Conservatives evaporated in recent weeks.
They said Mr Miliband had not recovered from a disastrous Labour conference in September.
Since then, Ukip came close to defeating Labour in a by-election in its safe seat in Heywood and Middleton and polls have suggested the Scottish National Party could capture many of Labour's 41 seats in Scotland at the general election.
Another critic said: "We are down to 29% in the polls and that could go down further. He is less popular than Nick Clegg and he will cost us votes at the general election. We are hearing it on the doorstep. People are saying, 'You are doing an alright job but we don't like your leader'. He is costing me votes."