Could John Hutton be Labour’s John Major?

Could John Hutton be Labour’s John Major?

    The Blair loyalist moves into the 4th favourite slot

john hutton RH strip.jpgIn spite of all the focus on leadership issues in Manchester over the past three days there’ve been only two real moves in the betting on who will succeed Tony Blair.

The second favourite, Alan Johnson has now eased into the third place position at 10/1 with the Home secretary, John Reid, being backed down from 20/1 at the weekend to 8/1 this morning. Meanwhile of the outsiders the Works and Pension Secretary, John Hutton, has started to attract a bit of interest and is now the 39/1 fourth favourite on Betfair having been at 74/1 at the weekend.

Gordon Brown’s price has eased a touch but he is still, at 0.45/1, the rock solid favourite to take the crown. For while he wasn’t helped by the ICM or Frank Luntz focus groups his greatest strength is that, so far at least, no serious challenger has emerged.

Brown is very much helped by a mood in the party that after he gave up his chance in 1994 then the leadership is rightly his now that Blair is finally moving on

Hutton, meanwhile, seems to be popping up everywhere this week as the Blairite loyalist that the media likes to talk to.

Last November the Observer columnist, Will Hutton (no relation) tipped him as a possible “dark horse in the race”. In a Radio 5Live interview he said:“He’s somebody who could actually be a kind of dark horse. With Margaret Thatcher back in 1989 John Major came out of the shadows. If Gordon Brown ever gets challenged successfully it will be by somebody we haven’t expected.”

The effort to find someone acceptable to fill the “Anybody but Brown” position was boosted by Peter Mandelson’s comments yesterday. His suggestion in a BBC interview that Gordon Brown “never fully reconciled” himself to Tony Blair becoming Labour leader twelve years ago is hardly going to help the Chancellor. Such words, from the Great Schemer, were clearly deliberate and, perhaps, indicate an effort to stop Brown getting it.

A lot now depends on Tony Blair who can control the timing and many other things that could help a challenger. His influence has been boosted by yesterday’s speech and it’s an open question as to whether he will throw his weight behind a challenger to Brown. Certainly the reported comments from Cherie Blair indicate that he might.

If Hutton starts being given more prominent roles then he might be worth a bob or two.

Mike Smithson

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