What will the headlines be like three weeks today?
It has become one of the great hardy annuals in UK political journalism – the Sunday papers after the May elections when year in year out the main story has been about the future of one party leader or another.
And so it is today and above are a couple of the front pages. But is it different this time? Does Labour’s worst local election performance for forty years combined with the loss of the London mayoralty add up to something more.
Quite simply is Gordon going to survive to fight the next general election? For the problem this weekend is that there are maybe 200 Labour MPs who are anxiously looking at the numbers in their own seats and thinking that they might be out of work in the not too distant future – that their political careers could be over.
Brown’s greatest asset is the same as it was a year ago when the parliamentary party gave him the leadership and the keys to Number 10 without a contest – there is no obvious alternative.
What could add to the turmoil within Labour ranks is the Crewe and Nantwich by election in just eighteen days time. For if the Tories are smart they will make it a referendum on Gordon Brown’s prime ministership and the future of the government. The voters there will be told that they have it in their power to send a “we want change” message to Westminster.
In other by election defences since Labour arrived in 1997 such an approach simply did not resonate because the Tories were so weak and did not look like a government in waiting. But opinion is shifting as Alan Watkins notes in the Indy on Sunday “….the change during the morning after May Day was that, for the first time, people became convinced that Mr David Cameron could win an outright majority.”
You can, of course, bet on Brown’s survival or not. I like the “leaders at the next election” on Betfair which has yet to really take off. You’ve also got the “Brown departure date” where it just 3/1 that he will be out in Q2 2008.
Another possible betting opportunity is on the next Labour leader where David Miliband is the 2/1 favourite.