James Forsyth

The succession chatter just got a lot louder

The succession chatter just got a lot louder
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If you haven’t already, do read John Rentoul’s column in today’s Independent on Sunday. It is the first time that a major commentator sympathetic to New Labour has seriously suggested that Gordon Brown won’t make it to the next election. 

Rentoul predicts that Brown will recover and then fizzle again. Here’s what happens next in his scenario:

“This time next year, therefore, after Brown's second bounce has dribbled away, the party is likely to turn to David Miliband. Fittingly, he foretold Brown's woes. Nine months ago he said on BBC1's Question Time: "I predict that when I come back on this programme in six months' time or a year, people will be saying, 'Wouldn't it be great to have that Blair back because we can't stand that Gordon Brown.'" He meant that to lead is to offend, but unconsciously hit on the dynamic that would propel him upwards.

The wisdom of the wise is that Miliband is not ready, or that he never will be ready. And it is true that, as Foreign Secretary, he has lost some of the fluency, urgency and thoughtfulness he showed at Environment. But he has the youth, the green credentials, the charm and the brain power to trump Cameron.

If the voters have already decided that Brown is not right for the job and that they want someone more like Blair, then Miliband is the only Labour rival to Cameron that could rise to that call.” I still think that the chances of Brown going before the next election are only about 6-1, but the mere fact that serious people like Rentoul are talking about it helps further drain Brown of his authority. The danger is that Team Brown exacerbates the situation by trying to knee-cap all the potential successors which would just harm the government even more.   

In the meantime, Wendy Alexander’s position has become even more precarious with the latest revelations. Her departure would be another blow for Brown.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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