The Milburn Candidature: Punters underwhelmed

The Milburn Candidature: Punters underwhelmed

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    ..and Gordon says he hasn’t been told the date

Until the succession issue has been resolved almost all senior Labour figures are going to have to negotiate themselves through fierce leadership-related questioning whenever they agree to be interviewed. And even after they have left the studios their every word will be subject to intense scrutiny by journalists looking for a story – particularly on quiet news days.

Even Gordon Brown is not immune – all reporters seemed to want to talk about at the end of his trip to Mozambique was the date of the handover and the Chancellor had to admit that he did not know.

Meanwhile the “hint” on Sunday that the former Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, might be considering a challenge has had almost no impact on the markets. There has been no rush by punters to get onto Milburn and his price, after some initial movement, has started to ease. The last bet traded on the Betfair exchange was at price of 18.5/1.

    Perhaps an even more interesting betting statistic is that the total amount wagered on the tall Geordie on Betfair since the the market started eleven months ago stands at just £1,382. That works out at just under £4 a day.

Milburn is not seen as a credible figure who could secure support in any of the three constituencies that will make up the electorate for this contest. He is labelled as a Blairite and that is going to do him little good amongst his fellow MPs, the trade unions and the ordinary party members.

Because of its hunger for power Labour at all levels has tolerated a leader for twelve years who has run against the grain of the party. Tony has or had that vital ingredient of being seen as an election winner. Milburn simply has not got that and he has no chance at all.

If Gordon is to face a challenge a lot will depend on the electoral climate at the time. If the Tories do not appear a threat then choosing a someone with solid Labour credentials will seem less of a risk. The faltering of Tory progress in the polls of the past couple of months has led to a bit of a movement to Alan Johnson – but only a touch.

In the betting Brown remains the 0.36/1 favourite. I can see no reason to bet for or against him. Once Tony has made his time-table known this market will explode and there will be a dramatic tightening of the Brown price. But who wants to tie up money for what could be several years for this rate of return?

Mike Smithson

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