Isn’t there a little matter of the election rules to think about?
Today’s chart shows the implied probability of Gordon Brown being elected next Labour leader based on the best betting odds over time.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2005 General Election the certainty of Brown getting the job was rated at 82%. It then declined a little only to soar again to 80% at the time of the party conference last September. Doubts started to emerge following David Cameron’s election as Tory leader but although things have since stabilised there is nothing like the sense of certainty that there was a year ago.
Given all the talk of a “smooth transition” many commentators seem to have forgotten that there’s the little matter of Labour’s rule book to be taken into account. Even if he was minded to to do, which seems unlikely, Blair simply cannot “hand-over power” to his Chancellor.
Once Blair has resigned an election will be called and any Labour MP who can garner the support of 45 colleagues will be able to put his/her name forward. The danger for Brown, surely, rests in that short period immediately after Tony’s announcement. For at the very moment Brown loses his USP as being “the only real alternative to Blair” and he’ll be become a leadership candidate.
No doubt, David Davis-style, a huge number of Labour MPs will line up publicly behind the man who looks set to control their political futures.
No doubt, also David Davis-style, Brown will chalk up more MP names than end up supporting him.
No doubt, like with Ming Campbell at the start of the year, there’ll be calls for a Michael Howard-type succession with Brown being the only candidate.
No doubt, like with Charles Kennedy, the outgoing leader could create the climate for a contested election to take place.
One thing that Brown needs to develop is the appearance of humility. That’s a characteristic that we all seem to like in candidates who are asking for our votes. Being seen to be presuming people’s support could be a real danger.
And at the end of the day the Labour electorate will choose the person seen as being best placed to take on David Cameron.