Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blair's Succession

The leak of documents suggesting a date to the Sun would appear to be a means to combine satisfying the Brownites that Blair will go with time left for Brown to settle in before the next election with avoiding the precision that might make Blair's last months more about his successor than his own glorious exit.

It would seem unlikely to satisfy either objective as the deadline is not early enough for the Brownites to fight the next set of elections (local and council elections) on their own terms as they would like and have decided they are entitled to. Equally, the speculation over the actual date will probably be all the fiercer for knowing a rough estimate of the date and the Sun's prediction. Blair cannot escape the trap that Dave Cole describes him creating for himself.

The reality, which unfortunately (or fortunately) the Labour party hasn't realised, is that the date is relatively unimportant. It might actually be in Brown's interest to take over significantly closer to the election. Brown's big advantage will be that he can dissociate himself from the gripes that build up with ten years in power and his own mistakes. The greater the period of time between his taking over and the general election the more likely it will be that the gloss will fade from shiny new Prime Minister Brown.

The biggest question that Labourites should be asking is not when Blair will leave but what kind of leadership contest they'll have after. Whether they'll have a contest like Davis-Cameron which leaves the party stronger or a contest like Clarke-Davis which fails to air the important issues and does not feature a shining performance from either candidate. Some have realised what this requires; more than one credible candidate.

The problem with arranging this for the Labour election is the widespread perception that Brown is sure to win. No politician aspiring to high office will risk setting himself up in opposition to Brown in the leadership election unless he thinks he has a chance of winning. Unless some kind of coalition can build very quickly and very effectively around an alternative the Labour party has no chance of an open debate over the leadership and instead simmering resentment on the part of those in the Labour party who want someone else. The other problem with arranging a decent multiple candidate race is that the parliamentary Labour party is so shockingly low on talent that isn't associated with some kind of sleaze or incompetence.


El Dave. said...

Running in leadership elections you have no hope of winning to demonstrate some support in the hope of later preferment is commonplace in the Labour party.

When John Smith died, the three contenders were Tony Blair, John Prescott and Margaret Beckett.


Serf said...

We have to "help" our favourite to win:
Tories for Gordon

edmund said...

Dave is right-also there's talk john reid hates Brown so much he'll run just to beat up on him