Johnson tightens to 6/1 as Straw enters deputy race

Johnson tightens to 6/1 as Straw enters deputy race

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    YouGov: 56% of Labour members want Prescott to stay

With the Observer reporting that Gordon Brown has been warned that his “long quest to become Labour leader and Prime Minister is at risk from the rising star of Alan Johnson..” there’s been a big move to the Education Secretary in the betting markets.

After Johnson started yesterday at 10/1 to become next Labour leader the price has tightened overnight to 6/1. One bookmaker is still quoting 14/1 though that won’t last long.

    Johnson’s preemptive move on Thursday to announce his intention to stand for the Labour Deputy leadership when John Prescott stands down has caught the others with leadership hopes napping and Straw is clearly trying to catch up.

The Johnson announcement is being seen by many as a way of getting himself into the frame to contest the leadership itself with the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, when that becomes vacant in the next year or two.

To add to the complications there’s a YouGov poll of Labour party members this morning in the Sunday Times showing that 56% think that Prescott should stay on until Blair steps down with 25% wanting the Deputy out now.

Straw’s problem, surely, is that all this has come too late for him. He celebrates his 60th birthday on August 3rd which makes him really too old to be considered a serious possibility for either the deputy or the main job.

In a leader under the heading Labour should embrace Alan Johnson’s challenge the Observer notes, “..Alan Johnson is right to have voiced his ambitions now. The Prime Minister has stated his intention to step down and the Chancellor’s preferred next move is hardly a secret, so other ministers are obviously thinking about their futures in a reconfigured government. The Education Secretary at least has distinguished himself by his honesty. That is no surprise. Mr Johnson is known in Westminster as a straight talker as well as a good minister and a likable man. He is also an electoral asset to the Labour party, appealing to southern England and the capital, whence he hails. Those are constituencies Gordon Brown struggles to reach. The Labour party has nothing to fear from a deputy leadership contest, but it has much to lose if it tries to suppress the inevitable competition to succeed John Prescott and, when the time comes, Tony Blair.”

On May 10th, less than four weeks ago I stuck my neck out here and suggested that Johnson was a good bet at the then 18/1 to succeed Blair. I think events are moving with me.

Mike Smithson

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