How influential is one of Gordon’s first “victims”
Frank Field, the former child poverty activist and widely regarded as one of Labour’s leading thinkers has a powerfully argued article in the Guardian this morning saying that the party needs to skip a generation and go for David Miliband for leader.
Field, it will be recalled, was made Minster for Welfare Reform in 1997 but left the government the following year after furious clashes with Gordon Brown. He was the subject of one of the first Number 10 – Number 11 battles and Gordon ended up as winner. Field went to the back benches.
One of Gordon’s problems is that there are quite a lot of figures in the party who, like Field, have been at the wrong end of a Brown-Blair spat or who have reason to oppose the Chancellor. We saw at the weekend the comments by Charles Clark and others might be encouraged to raise their voices.
You cannot get where Brown is today without making enemies – the question is whether they can still derail his career ambitions.
In his article Field questions whether Brown will be able to offer the “new start” that many argue that Labour needs in order to restore popularity ahead of the next general election.
He goes on: “..Blair’s inexplicable decision to concede power to Brown has resulted in the chancellor’s fingerprints being indelibly smudged on all the main areas of home policy. With such clear responsibility for what has gone on, how can he offer the country a new start, as opposed to 100 days of eye-catching initiatives of the kind that dominated Labour’s first 100 days in 1997? What new directions can be offered when the architect of current policies has merely moved up a place?…More important, how will a continuation of current policies appear in, say, two years’ time, when an election may have to be fought? Brown’s supporters will rightly refer to his success as chancellor… But in the pivotal period leading up to the next election, relying on what is now deemed success is fraught with danger.”
What this sort of discussion will foster is a climate of opinion that will encourage a serious challenge rather than a planned Brown coronation or a contest against a token opponent.
So Gordon still has some way to go before he is home and dry but I will not be changing my betting. In the markets Brown is still in the 0.19/1 to 0.2/1 band where it has been for months.