It seems inevitable the Labour leadership will continue to dominate the week’s headlines, regardless of the show of unity that is mounted for the cameras in Manchester over the next few days. The question of ‘Will Gordon survive?’ seems increasingly redundant: quite simply, Labour cannot continue like this, and even Mr Brown’s biggest fans seem unable to imagine the circumstances which will allow him to recover the popularity he lost a year ago. Events have developed a momentum of their own, and it’s a question of when, not if, he will be toppled as Labour leader.
Which begs the question: who would be best placed to replace Gordon Brown as Labour leader and Prime Minister?
Now, I’m aware that asking this on a Liberal Democrat website invites folk to calculate who would most benefit the Lib Dems as a party, rather than who would be good for Labour to elect. For example, we might think the social democrat-inclined David Miliband would make a wonderful Labour leader, but potentially woo Lib Dem voters, and so not vote for him regardless.
But I’m inviting you, fellow Lib Dems, to see past such partisan calculations, and use this poll genuinely to vote for the potential candidate you think would prove the most effective leader of the Labour party.
(I have, however, set up a poll in the private members’ forum to allow folk to choose who they think will be the best/worst leader from a Lib Dem perspective).
There will, I’m sure, be arguments about who should be on this list who I’ve missed out, or is on this list and doesn’t merit inclusion. If so, feel free to use the comments field to speak up. But here’s my list of the top 10 contenders for the top job:
David Miliband – could hurt the Lib Dems if he put forward a seriously reforming package, including constitutional reform; but it’s hard to imagine his unfortunately aloof manner working well with voters;
Harriet Harman – a female leader could well win support back for Labour, both from wavering Tories and Lib Dems; so much would depend on how she actually performed in the job;
John Reid – could hurt the Tories hard, out-flanking them on the right; hard to imagine his leadership hurting the Lib Dems;
Jon Cruddas – will be attractive to many Labour activists, but will likely be stereotyped (to an extent unfairly) as Labour shifting to the left; hard to imagine wither Tories or Lib Dems suffering, but might solidify the Labour vote;
Jack Straw – comes across very reasonably, but also as a grey man; hard to see how he will help Labour to move on, and outflank the Tories or Lib Dems;
John Denham – see Jack Straw;
Jacqui Smith – see Harriet Harman;
Alan Johnson – appears all but to have ruled himself out, hitching his colours to David Miliband’s mast; but is he missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become PM?
James Purnell – it’s surely too early for Purnell to ‘do a Hague’?
Ed Balls – his leadership victory would be a Tory and Lib Dem dream come true.
Anyway, over to you…