Would the ex-home secretary provide the “heavyweight challenge”
Conscious that it is April 1st I have dismissed the Observer story “Blair: I’ll be treading the boards again” suggesting that the PM is scheduled to appear in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at the Old Vic when he stands down.
But what of the Sunday Times report that the former home secretary, Charles Clarke, is ready to stand against Brown in order to ensure that there is a proper contest?
According to the paper what are said to be “Confidants of the former home secretary” are saying that he will put his hat into the ring if David Miliband decides not to mount a challenge. A source is quoted as saying â€œHe intends to run a progressive campaign that will force a debate on the partyâ€™s futureâ€.
Clarke’s purpose would be to avoid a Brown coronation and to provoke a debate on Labour’s future so that Brown would have to flesh out where he stands.
But would Clarke be able to find 44 MPs to sign his nomination? The Brown camp seems so determined that there should be no contest that Clarke might have trouble overcoming the first hurdle.
The last few days have seen prominent figures such as Peter Hain and Margaret Beckett warning other candidates off in a move designed to deter colleagues from backing any but Brown. The Sunday Times, however, believes that Clarke could find sufficient nominees.
While it is just possible to envisage a David Miliband candidature suddenly taking off it is hard to see anything other than a Clarke bid ending in total failure – but, as the paper points out, he has nothing to lose.
Clarke’s great strength is that he is a lucid and effective debater and could test Brown if there is a contest and TV debates are arranged.
In the betting the Brown price has tightened to 0.22/1