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Is John Reid now carrying the flag for Team Blair?

September 28th, 2006
    But could his “Back Story” blow his chances?

reid guns.JPGJudging by the way Tony Blair enthusiastically greeted John Reid’s conference speech are the “anyone but Brown” factions now pinning their hopes on the Home Secretary? Certainly it appeared that way and punters have eased off Brown and have now backed Reid into the second favourite slot again.

There can be little doubt that Reid’s powerful speech was in all but name a declaration that he will be standing.

    The big question mark over Reid is that every aspect of the lives of prospective candidates lives will be put under the media microscope in a way that we have not seen before. Is this where the Home Secretary could be vulnerable?

For there are many parts of his past that could be tricky for someone who aspires to be Prime Minster. During the 1990s Bosnian War, for instance, he was reported to have struck up a friendship with the Serb rebel leader Radovan Karadžić who was later indicted for war crimes. It’s said that Reid spent three days at a luxury Swiss hotel as a guest of Karadžić in 1993. What went on there? Why did he go? Reid needs convincing explanations.

This could raise questions about his former membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In typical Reid style he is quoted as saying “I used to be a Communist. I used to believe in Santa Claus”. You can see the Tories and the Brownites getting their teeth into that one.

His reported heavy drinking which he has now stopped completely and his reputation as a “bruiser” in his youth all open up lines of inquiry that will be highlighted during a leadership campaign.

Reid needs to pre-empt all of this by closing down these issues as soon as possible otherwise it will haunt him throughout the coming months.

What is going to be critical is how his challenge is rated in the opinion polls. Was the controversial Frank Luntz focus group a fair reflection of the general public and the views of Labour supporters? Gordon Brown has got so much momentum going for him that it is going to take some serious pro-Reid polling evidence for him to get a toe-hold.

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Mike Smithson






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