Friday, April 11, 2008

Succession Politics

It is indicative of the current crisis in Labour morale, brought about by bargain-basement poll ratings and the general sense of purposeless drift at Number 10, that people are already, just 290 days into Brown's tenure, speculating about who should replace him. The problem for Labour is that they have had ten years with an heir apparent who was quite ruthless in slapping down or destroying any remotely credible challenger. The end of the Blair era is strewn with political corpses - Reid, Milburn, Blunkett, Clarke - who at one point dared to dream that they might supplant Gordon.
The problem is that now there aren't any credible challengers at all. The standard question of who would take over if Gordon Brown were to be run over by a bus has no satisfactory answer - unless it were the bus driver. In such a scenario, where Brown is forced to stand down immediately, for whatever reason, the only possible caretaker leader would be Jack Straw. But at 61, and never an exciting political force, this could only ever be a temporary measure. But who else is there?
Ed Balls fancies himself as the next leader, and is dashing about frantically trying to raise his profile and take on the heir-presumptve label. But he's ghastly. He has no media presence, no speaking ability, no friends on the Labour benches apart from the Prime Minister, and far too many enemies. No-one likes a royal favourite, and Balls has been the Piers Gaveston for too long.
Miliband? Lacks gravitas to such a degree that he makes the role of foreign secretary look jejune and lightweight. Burnham, Purnell, Hutton etc? Simply too junior and uninspiring. It's really just another symptom of Brown's unwillingness to allow anybody to flourish - because he ses it as a threat. Even if it becomes obvious that the only chance for Labour to win the election is without Brown, there's no longer an alternative.

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