Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The next leadership race starts here?

When I first spotted this post on Ben Brogan's blog earlier today I initially thought it was a bit frivolous of him to start speculating about leadership "beauty contests." But in fact Brogan has a very good point.

Despite Gordon Brown's current dominance of the political scene, it should not be forgotten that this could easily be both his first and last conference as Labour leader.

As Brogan points out: "If Brown listens to the hotheads, goes for November, and gets it wrong, we really will be looking for a change candidate."

So just for the sake of argument - and because no party conference would be complete without a bit of leadership speculation - who might that candidate be?

Well, as Iain Dale notes, frontrunner David Miliband has just bored the delegates into slumber for the second year running, although the content of his speech today was largely spot-on.

Brogan himself speculates that energetic Ed Balls could emerge as a runner, although I have long believed that his wife, Yvette Cooper, is really the more talented politician in the Balls household.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson would certainly stand, but at 56 may be considered too old for a gruelling four or five years of opposition before he would have a chance to unseat Prime Minister Cameron in 2011/12.

In my view, the dark horse could well be Jacqui Smith, who has made a great start as Home Secretary and has impeccably New Labour credentials. It will be interesting to see how her speech goes down later in the week.

On a related point, does anyone know why Brown moved the leader's speech to Monday? I guess he must have had his reasons but it's turned the whole of the rest of the conference into a largely meaningless anticlimax.

The conference always tailed off after Tuesday, but I reckon that the extra day's build-up to the old Tuesday afternoon slot was worth at least an extra day's front-page headlines for Labour.

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Ted Harvey said...

Interesting your speculation about Milliband as one possible successor to Brown. It's true that for two years running now he flopped at the Labour Annual Conference (and not just on the substantive content; his delivery and whole demeanour at times was downright 6th Form geeky).

I wonder if, rather like Portillio, his failure to 'step up to the table' for a leadership competition with Brown will gradually count against him as more and more other contenders emerge.

I also suspect that he was seriously misguided in his studied stance in his speech on Iraq where he was effectively saying 'no we will not apologise, but we will try to learn lessons'. Better for his future prospects that he had left out the no apology bit; now he has that bolted onto the baggage he must carry. (I hasten to add that all concerned in the Labour Government should be apologising for Iraq).

On Brown 'moving' the speech to the start of conference - wasn't that his natural slot as Chancellor?

More significantly, isn't it just another device for de-powering Conference - He gets to set the tone and theme at the outset. Conference events don't get to influence his speech in the way they could have if the speech was in the traditional later slot.

Stuart Holmes said...

Dear Paul,

Please check the Post - "NEW LABOUR ANNUAL CONFERENCE BOURNMOUTH 2007 - THERE NEEDS TO BE A PUBLIC ENQUIRY - Policical Corruption & Corporate Crime" in ActorsSmokingFilmsTV.blogspot.com
posted 26 Sept. 07.

Yours Sincerely
Stuart Holmes
Anti-Smoking Campaigner.

Anonymous said...


Are you not focusing on the wrong party? Surely the real question is who will be the next leader of the Tory party?

Have you seen the letters page in today's Telegraph? Have a look - click on the link below.


Paul Linford said...

Stuart Old Chap

I would be most grateful if you would you stop using this blog to promote your campaign
regarding smoking in TV and films.

Aa you know, I think you have done very valuable work in the past in terms of highlighting the dangers of smoking and the public ban that came into force earlier this year is down in part to the efforts of campaigners such as yourself.

However my view is that this process has now gone far enough and that any further efforts to stigmatise smokers and smoking in this country would run the risk of
curbing individual freedoms.

I don't, in any case, agree with your central premise that actors smoking in TV and films glamorises the product.

While this may have been true 20-30 years ago, with characters such as James Bond regularly lighting up, for instance, it is scarecely the case today. Bond has been fag-free for a couple of decades and if a character in a TV drama or film is depicted smoking nowadays it is more often than not designed to identify them as a chav.

Any further comments of the above nature will be deleted along with all the other spam that gets posted here from time to time.

Yours ever,


Anonymous said...

But if Brown has lost the leadership (or resigned from it) after losing a General Election, the chances are (barring a very good personal result) that Smith will have lost her seat, highly marginal Redditch.

Balls is an even worse media performer than Miliband. No wonder Gove knocks hell out of him in Schools, Children and Families Questions. Having met him at Conference a few years ago, I know he's a nice guy, but I agree entirely with Paul that Yvette Cooper is the more formidable politician.

There is also Benn, Straw and Alexander (Alexander has recently had odds of 3/1 of being next Labour leader at pb.com).

Re. a previous post, yes, Miliband is the most outstandingly nerdish politician since Tim Collins. He would be rightly viewed as Labour's answer to William Hague.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and there's John Denham. Labour could lose quite a few southern seats without losing Southampton Itchen (which he first won in 92), and he could present himself as the man to win back the south.

Plus, of course, he did himself immense credit by resigning over the Iraq war, and then being a constructive critic of the government from the backbenches.