Is this the man to take on Brown?
Although I think that the balance of probability still lies with Gordon Brown to take over from Tony Blair I’m sufficiently uncertain to consider other choices. Certainly at current prices the non-Brown options look very attractive.
I’ve just placed my first serious bet on the contest – on the new Education Secretary, Alan Johnson who can be had from a bookmaker at 18/1. The Betfair price is much tighter which is often a good sign. These are my reasons:-
Blair does not want Brown. Whatever was said at his news conference the other day my strong sense is that Blair is doing everything he can to stop his Chancellor succeeding him at Number 10. All the talk of “civil war” within the top echelons of the party cannot, as the paid spinners suggest, be dismissed as just trivial speculation. There is a serious split and my view is that Tony is going to do everything he can to hinder Gordon.
Gordon should have had the guts to mount a coup when he had the chance. He could have done this in the autumn of 2004 and in the past few weeks yet he has stood back. To get the top job sometimes involves taking risks as Ming Campbell showed in January with the move to oust Charles Kennedy.
There will be a contest. My reading of the Chancellor is that he doesn’t want the grubbiness of having to fight a campaign – he’d like the leadership conferred upon him. All the evidence from his career is that he hates having to ask people for support. The public and the media have had their appetites whetted by the Tory and Lib Dem races and when the moment comes somebody will emerge to take on Gordon. Of the possibles Alan Johnson looks good.
Johnson will run a better campaign To get to the top of a major Trade Union requires strong political and campaiginng skills which will hold him in good stead if he does decide to run. Brown, by contrast, has much less expereince.
Blair has given Johnson a leg-up. In the cabinet re-shuffle he got promoted to Education Secretary which will give him a lot more exposure in the coming months – a sign, perhaps, of possible Downing Street preferment?
Johnson’s trade union background will resonate with the party. The mood amongst Labour members, surely, is that after a eleven years of Blair they want a leader again who is one of them and Johnson, I believe, fits the bill better than Brown. He communicates well and his background running one of the key trade unions places him ideally to win the hearts and minds of large parts of the party.
The betting price is good and when the contest does start the Johnson odds should tighten dramatically.
Put a few quid on the 18/1 while it’s still there.