Thursday, May 7, 2009

Leadership challenge from James Purnell?

Last July I wrote a post suggesting that James Purnell would be the one to take over from Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. As we near the precipice of the Euro elections a leadership bid looks more and more likely with talk in particular of Charles Clarke putting himself forward as a stalking horse simply to get the process going. But there's still very little being written about James Purnell. Of the few, Allegra Stratton at The Guardian suggests that he has been dining the Labour clubs around the country, Jane Merrick at The Independent suggests that a recent image makeover gives away his leadership intentions and Benedict brogan at The Telegraph says that he might be seen as a liberal alternative to Balls or Milliband. Ironically, perhaps the best indicator as to his leadership intentions is the assiduous way in which he has managed to keep down chatter on this issue despite being an obvious contender, something which can clearly be seen with the bookies now downgrading his chances from 7-1 to 10-1. He's recently celebrated his 39th birthday and at the moment might be seen as up-and-coming. But with the Labour Party in disarray and the possibility of outright civil war after a general election defeat he may see this as his best chance of the top job for very many years to come. As Michael Portillo poignantly wrote in The Times two years ago in the context of a possible Millband challenge to Brown: "If he does not grab it now, the opportunity may never recur. Brown will become leader, might lose the general election and condemn Labour to a decade in opposition. By which time Miliband will be a has-been, his best years spent fruitlessly harassing the Cameron government, for ever marked by his failure to seize the day, consigned to history as a vacillator. I can tell Miliband that this does not feel good." So, as I said last year: watch this space. James Purnell as the next Prime Minister.

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