Happy to talk

Neal Lawson (Observations, 4 December) suggests that we have decided not to debate with non-cabinet colleagues standing for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. We have done no such thing and any future hustings should, of course, include every candidate.

What we have agreed, and hope every candidate will support, is that we should focus on fighting the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Nationalists between now and May. The party will not forgive any of us if we spend the weeks before the crucial elections in Scotland, Wales and in local authorities across the country debating with each other. That debate on the future direction of the party - and yes, on how we renew ourselves in office - should take place when the time comes and after we have put first the needs of those who rely on Labour being in office.

Hilary Benn, Peter Hain, Alan Johnson

House of Commons, London SW1

This article first appeared in the 11 December 2006 issue of the New Statesman, Trident: not too late