We keep talking about which party leader is taking the lead on expenses but – from a Labour perspective – it might be more useful to look at which Cabinet ministers are doing all the running. After all, with Brown on the ropes, his potential replacements might be looking to seize the mantle of de facto leader. That’s why two passages from recent papers have caught my eye. This in today’s Times:
“Gordon Brown is being urged from within the Cabinet to lead a new public debate about state funding of the parties and reform of the electoral system, to intensify the clean-up of politics after the expenses scandal.
Senior ministers such as Lord Mandelson, David Miliband and James Purnell are calling for Labour to seize the reform agenda now, rather than hand the political initiative to the Conservatives in the run-up to the election.”
And this from yesterday’s Guardian:
“Gordon Brown is drawing up plans for a radical overhaul of his frontbench that could see Peter Mandelson promoted to foreign secretary, it emerged today, as the prime minister came under pressure to call a constitutional convention to reform parliament and reconnect politics with the people.
An intense cabinet-level debate is under way on the format of this initiative, its timescale and the range of issues that would be discussed. The enthusiasts for wider reform include Harriet Harman, leader of the Commons, James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, and David Miliband, the foreign secretary.”
It’s striking how the usual leadership suspects – David Miliband, James Purnell, Harriet Harman – keep cropping up. If they recognise the current lamentable situation as an opportunity, then their thinking is understandable.