The explanation for this emphasis on the coming leadership battle in the Westminster village is, as both Richards and Sylvester note, the belief that Gordon will only fight one election as PM. As Fraser first revealed back in August, the PM is sceptical about the chance of the public giving someone over 60 a mandate that would carry them beyond retirement age. (Fraser also made the point that, “Rule number one of being PM is: never talk about retirement. Or it might happen sooner than you think.” The Bronwites would have done well to heed this warning.)
Personally, I still can’t see Ed Balls as PM. As Stephen points out, he might be a very clever man but he lacks the presence that you need for the top job. If I had to pick an outside bet to follow Gordon, I’d put a fiver on Jon Cruddas. Remember that he came first in terms of first preferences for the deputy leadership job. He’s well out of this current government and the ongoing Brownite and Blairite feuds and it is hard to imagine anyone in Westminster less likely to be tainted by sleaze. If the Labour party feel like a blast of the old religion, then Cruddas might well be their choice.