Is it too early to bet on Brown’s successor?

Is it too early to bet on Brown’s successor?

    HenryG reviews the runners and the prices

gordon rh.JPG For those still amazed that Brown has been crowned Labour Leader without facing an election, one thing that must be a certainty is that his successor won’t be so privileged. No doubt in the bowels of Westminster some will be plotting their moves to ingratiate themselves with the new leader, others looking to pounce with an alternative agenda should Labour crash at the next election.

The current Deputy Leadership contest will no doubt include several politicians who may fancy using the platform to be in prime place ‘for next time’. Then there is the chance that the next Labour leader be a relative unknown? Few would have predicted David Cameron’s rise to leader five years ago. Brown has talked of wanting to lead the country for up to ten years, but the timing of any future leadership election will be determined by the outcome of the next general election. Get this call right and some big price returns could come your way.

Thankfully William Hill already has a market on this. It’s crystal ball time.

David Miliband (2/1)
– much hyped last-minute alternative to Gordon Brown. Son of Marxist Ralph and older brother of Brownite Ed. Famously gaffed on Question Time when saying in a few months time the public will be clamouring for Blair’s return. Ferociously able, genuinely nice, but regarded as having heavy policy wonkish tendencies. The Tony Crosland of his generation?

Hilary Benn (6/1)
– had surprisingly low levels of support from within parliament for his deputy bid, although he could go on to win. He is in the most politically attractive position as far as many Labour Party members are concerned, but put him in a department requiring tough decisions and his political stock could soon fall.

Ed Balls (8/1) – proponent of ‘neo-classical endogenous growth theory’ and Brown’s key lieutenant. Key driver behind the independence of the Bank of England, but isn’t yet seen as a terrific communicator. Wife Yvette could have the better claim.

Alan Johnson (10/1)
– Charming working class trade unionist who has made it the hard way. Has the support of The Sun for his deputy leader challenge. He has admitted he was interested in standing for leader last summer and will be looking to stand again. As an almost definite runner and with a strong chance of becoming Deputy Leader, he looks good value at 10/1.

Alastair Darling (12/1) – Scottish, serious and sensible. Close to Brown but won’t ever set the nation alight with his personality.

Jack Straw (16/1)
– if Labour lost the next election he could definitely stand as a ‘unity’ candidate. By then he could have held three of the four major offices of state. Was rumoured to want to stand in the deputy contest for some time but had a better offer – campaign manager to Gordon Brown. Labour to his finger-tips and respected by the unions. If you fancy Labour to lose the next election and Brown to subsequently resign, Jack could be your Lad.

John Denham (20/1)
– held in high regard for his principled resignation over Iraq, but will this fade with time? He is telegenic, represents a southern seat and stands to be a minister under Brown. I’m not convinced he has burning ambition, but definitely one to watch.

Peter Hain (25/1) – fancies himself as champion of the Liberal-Left. Former anti-apartheid campaigner and current deputy leader challenger (though outsider with the bookies). Could only credibly stand if he won the Deputy contest and Labour slumped to defeat in the elections, while avoiding the blame. Representing a Welsh seat could be held against him in devolved times.

Yvette Cooper (25/1)
– popular in the party and could conceivably be Labour’s first female Leader. Very close to Gordon and Sarah Brown and is the wife of Ed Balls. Intelligent and charismatic in a modest way. Will be promoted by Brown. Does she have the ambition? If she does she will have support in all the right places.

Harriet Harman (25/1)
– Not a great hope. Sacked Social Security Secretary and although has support from Brownites for her Deputy Bid, wasn’t regarded as particularly able when last a cabinet minister.

Hazel Blears (33/1)– Furiously optimistic and very, very short but not the joke candidate some think for deputy. She does however lack gravitas and is most likely to play a cheerleading role.

James Purnell (33/1)– one of the original ‘Blairites for Brownites’ which helped paved the way for Gordon to waltz to the big job. Seen as bright and able he is part of new generation aiming to move on from the TB-GBs. A good communicator and could be a contender if David Miliband doesn’t stand.

Others: John Reid (12/1) has distanced himself from the Brown administration and could harbour hopes of leadership. However a turbulent time at the Home Office, stories of personal misdemeanours combined with a sense that he will be too old means his time has passed. Des Browne (12/1) will be lucky to stay in the cabinet, never mind lead the party. Douglas Alexander (12/1) could fall foul of ‘the Scottish problem’ but is close to Brown. Perhaps watch how he deals with a bigger ministerial portfolio before backing him. As Blairites, Alan Milburn (16/1), Tessa Jowell (25/1) Patricia Hewitt and John Hutton (50/1) look to be on their way out. Too close to Tony and hold very limited appeal. Stephen Timms (33/1) is a nice man, but is a bit too peculiar to have a chance of leading the party. Charles Clarke (25/1) has fallen out with pretty much everyone. If anyone has ever been able to understand a word Ian McCartney says, then they will better at determining his chances than I.

I have backed Johnson (10/1), Straw (16/1), Cooper (25/1), Purnell (33/1) and but I’d be interested to hear other’s thoughts.

HenryG is a regular contributor to PB discussions

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