I have no inside information about this, but I don’t think Gordon Brown will become leader of the Labour Party, or Prime Minister.  My reasons are:

  • the clear favourite almost never succeeds (think Gaitskell/Bevan, Foot/Healy)
  • with David Cameron in charge of the Tories, the Labour Party will want someone of a younger generation
  • Brown will be blamed, fairly or not, for slower economic growth and the impact of fiscal constraints in the coming years
  • I suspect Blair will pick the moment of his departure to minimise Brown’s chances of succession

Who will it be instead?  My guesses would be (in no particular order) David Miliband, Ruth Kelly or Douglas Alexander. 


Owen Barder

Owen is CEO of Precision Agriculture for Development. He has worked in the office of the UK Prime Minister, the British Treasury, the Department for International Development; and at the Center for Global Development.


MatGB · December 23, 2005 at 10:53 am

Kelly? Oh gods no. OTOH, at least she’s an easy target. Not followed the other two closely, guess someone else to keep an eye of…

Bloggers4Labour · December 24, 2005 at 4:50 am

Hilary Benn? No spring chicken, but worth a mention.

Owen · December 24, 2005 at 6:14 am

Good thought. He might need to get more established in domestic policy, but he has done a good job at DFID.

Tony Hatfield · December 24, 2005 at 8:57 am

Sorry, I just can’t see any of the above-or anybody else for that matter- duffing up Gordon whenever TB chucks in the towel! He’s waited too long.
It’ll be interesting to see just how the Tories run with Letwin’s idea of wealth re-distribution.


Jim · December 24, 2005 at 12:16 pm

You may be right, but I think he will succeed Blair, partly because he does offer a real contrast to both Blair and Cameron, who both look superficial in comparison. I’d be surprised if the economy tanked enough to seriously tarnish his reputation, and the fiscal constraints you mention are likely to consist of spending restraint rather than significant cuts or tax hikes, IMHO.

And the lack of credible alternatives clinches it. By the time Blair leaves, most of his Cabinet will have had to take the blame for one of his crackpot schemes (Ruth Kelly in education being a good current examples) and so will be damaged goods. That said, Miliband seems to have avoided this fate so far, and I’ve been rather impressed with what he’s had to say, but at this stage he’s really just the Labour Cameron, and a contest between the two is the dullest imaginable.

Owen · December 24, 2005 at 11:01 pm

I should make it clear that I am not advocating that someone else should succeed Mr Blair; merely expressing scepticism at the received wisdom that it will be completely straightforward for Mr Brown to do so.

Brian B · December 24, 2005 at 11:21 pm

By the time of the next election, Cameron will have become old hat, and probably tarnished either by association with reactionary policies or by his dogged refusal to disclose any policies at all; by contrast Gordon Brown, who will probably be kept waiting until the last possible moment, will have the advantage of novelty — I suspect his style will change and blossom once he has got the top job, and I can’t see any conceivable rival being prepared to risk tearing the party apart by challenging him. Cameron will seem much less threatening by then and Brown’s maturity and experience will have become positive assets compared with Cameron, which will raise the cost to the Labour party of discarding Brown. In any case, none of the possible alternatives mentioned so far looks to me remotely credible. An economic downturn between now and then may well somewhat erode his status as a magically successful economic manager, but it probably won’t much affect his air of natural authority and moral seriousness. My money is still on Brown.

Whether he will make a success of being prime minister (or, heaven forbid, leader of the opposition) is of course another matter entirely.


Rob Spence · December 27, 2005 at 6:47 am

Ruth Kelly? Gawd ‘elp us!

St.John · December 28, 2005 at 4:14 am

I agree that Brown would not compare favourably to Cameron with the electorate and also that the longstanding heir rarely succeeds in politics. Though little known, David Miliband is an impressive individual who has youth and photogenic presence on his side and would be my tip to succeed Blair if Labour want to win again next time.

Justin McGuirk · January 3, 2006 at 5:13 am

Gordon Brown, what does the man really stand for. Apart from matters fiscal we, the public, are very much in the dark as to his political consensus. Foreign policy (Iraq),Environment, Europe; Health, the list goes on and on. Labour are out of touch, the unions at there last conference proved that. Labour needs to re-align itself, the centre ground is being poached back inch by inch, day by day from a revitalised tory party. Infact, if Labour do not shift back to there roots, they soon will become the party of the right. David Milliband is the man, visionary, marketable and of left wing persuasion.

Ken · January 12, 2006 at 2:44 am

I think you are right that by the time Blair does step down, someone else will feel that it is right to have a go for the leadership. After all, Blair has been there for nearly 12 years now; whilst Brown may have frustrated ambitions, so will others. That said, I think there has been a tacit assumption Brown will be leader for so long now, that it will take a very strong candidate indeed to beat him, and at the minute there isn’t one.

Smartart · September 2, 2006 at 9:17 am

I have witness to my prediction, around six months back, that Blair would never let Brown succeed him.  Blair despises Brown as

Blair is a chancer and Brown "prudent".  I have dubbed them the "Axis of Petulence".  Whoever succeeds, democracy is stuffed

while PARTY politics remains the norm.

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