Monday, February 26, 2007

Why Alistair Darling won't be Chancellor

A few weeks' back, I made the following prediction on this blog about Alistair Darling's chances of becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Gordon Brown Government.

"I am going to come out against him....not because I think Gordon wouldn't want him as Chancellor, but because I don't think he can have him. At a time when the Tories are seeking to make a general election issue of Brown's Scottishness, he simply cannot afford to have the two most important jobs in British politics occupied by politicians from north of the border - particularly if he also keeps John Reid at the Home Office."

So I was interested to see Peter Preston making a virtually identical point in a piece in The Guardian this morning.

"Darling lies obviously top of the list. Indeed, speculation gives nobody else much of a look-in. Except that, the moment you forget received wisdom and begin notional cabinet building instead, the Darling succession makes absolutely no sense. John Reid says he's fit for continuing purpose at Brown's Home Office. Des Browne is a new, safe pair of hands at defence. Douglas Alexander seems a devout, talented disciple. But if they are all kept in place (and Reid hints that his job is safe with the new boss), how many very senior Scots can a Scottish PM afford? Another kilt doesn't work on any analysis - especially if you have to win a general election in England."

Preston goes with David Miliband for Chancellor, as I did for quite a long time before veering slightly towards Jack Straw a few weeks' back. The truth, though, is that it's far too early to arrived at settled predictions, with the situation apparently changing by the day.

I suspect that who ends up doing what jobs will be a matter of last minute negotiation, and that this will be inextricably linked to the issue of whether there is actually a serious leadership challenge.

This is surely particularly true in the case of David Miliband. If he succumbs to the entreaties of the Blairite media to stand against Gordon and does well, he will surely be entitled to demand either the Foreign Office or the Treasury. If he is humiliated, he might struggle even to hold onto his current job of Environment Secretary.

Meanwhile, Mike Smithson today reveals he has had a £6 bet on John Denham at 320/1 on the back of this post last Thursday on why Denham should challenge Brown for the leadership. He can buy me a pint out of his £1,920 winnings if JD scoops the big prize.

Update: Irwin Stelzer - who acts as the middle-man between Rupert Murdoch and New Labour - comes out in favour of Ed Balls in this piece in today's Guardian. James Higham has a mischievous explanation.

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james higham said...

Does talent have any say in the matter or does it all come down to origins and alliances?

Paul Linford said...

In an ideal world, James, no. But in a world where the Tories are going to make a big election issue of Brown's Scottishness, origins are important.