Meet the front runners for next opposition leader
According to weekend reports the race is already on for who should be Labour leader after the likely defeat at the coming general election. And the three who are said to be most actively campaigning are James Purnell (Balliol), Ed Balls (Keble) and Ed Miliband (Corpus Christi).
Interestingly they are not the front-runners in the betting but have many thing in common. Two of them are still in their 30s (EM and JP ), two went to public schools (EB and JP), and two only became MPs at the 2005 general election (EB and EM).
All three read the same degree, Politics, Philosophy and Economics, that David Cameron (Brasenose) did at Oxford and all three are said to be working hard building alliances within the party so that they can launch their bids when the vacancy occurs.
The Oxford connection has almost become an essential requirement in British politics for successful party leaders. The only Labour leaders who have ever won overall commons majorities (Attlee, Wilson and Blair) all went to the university and since 1935 the only party leaders, Conservative or Labour, who are graduates and who have won general elections went to the university. Churchill and Major were, of course, not graduates.
Gordon Brown, as everybody knows, went to Edinburgh.
So what are the chances? Clearly a lot depends on when the contest takes place. If Brown went before the election then an interim leader like Jack Straw (Leeds University) or Harriet Harman (University of York) could take over. If Labour decided that it wanted a full-blooded contest, and there might be big benefits in that, then the three Oxonians would be in with a shout.
I have bets at reasonably long odds on all three.