Is the row about whether Brown faces a proper contest?

Is the row about whether Brown faces a proper contest?

    Is Tony trying to make Gordon fight for the job?

From the acres of space devoted to the Labour leadership this morning there has been little on what to me is the key issue – that Tony is not playing ball over Gordon’s plan to get into No. 10 without having to fight a real contest.

All the talk of ‘smooth transition’ seems to have been on the assumption that Tony Blair would do what he could to make the whole thing appear to be a fait accompli so any thought of a serious challenger to Brown was futile.

So is the current row between Blair and Brown not about the departure date at all but rather over the Prime Minister’s apparent reluctance to do everything he can to ensure that Gordon gets it almost by default?

    For one amazing aspect of Brown’s whole political career is that he’s got where he has even though he has avoided a serious contest for anything. If a challenge has been required he has pulled out.

On holiday I have been re-reading Tom Bower’s biography on Gordon and what comes out is a a history of extraordinary caution when it comes to taking risks. Thus he could have got into Parliament many years earlier if he had been prepared to fight for a seat even though he was being urged to put himself forward. But this was not the Brown style.

And when eventually he did get selected , Dunfermline East, Bower reports that it was only because the process had been “pre- determined” by party power brokers.

There was the same reluctance in 1992 when he ignored strong pressure from Tony Blair and others to run against John Smith – a decision that Blair is reported to have described as cowardice. As we have discussed there were times during 2004 when the leadership would probably have been his if he had been prepared to take a risk

    So was the realisation that the Labour leadership might not be a Dunfermline East process the reason for what the Blairites are describing as this week’s “attempted coup?”

There’s a lot of betting activity in the Labour leadership and the timing markets.

Mike Smithson

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