I have been meaning to blog on this for a while and have been prompted by a post on Political Betting which talks about the odds on Alistair Darling becoming the next Labour leader.
I have not seen much discussion elsewhere of the possibility of the current Chancellor of the Exchequer succeeding Brown. The talk is all of people like the brothers Miliband, Ed Balls, James Purnell (until he decided to leave politics) and in a caretaker role Alan Johnson or Jack Straw. I wonder why Darling is so often overlooked. After all:
- He has political longevity: He is one of only 3 cabinet ministers to have survived all the way through from Blair's first government (the other two are Brown himself and Straw).
- He has lots of experience: He has been variously Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Secretary of State for Transport, Secretary of State for Scotland, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and of course Chancellor of the Exchequer.
- He has piloted the country through the worst economic crisis for decades: OK so you could argue that his government caused the problems but to be fair it was Brown who was at the economic helm as the bubble was pumped up. In some ways Darling has been in the worst position possible for a politician. He has had to clear up the mess left behind by his predecessor whilst being unable to blame him for the problems. A very difficult balancing act to pull off. At the same time...
- He has dealt with intolerable pressure from a control freak Prime Minister: He hasn't won all the battles with the PM but he has won some and it is looking like he has been able to stamp his authority on the incipient budget (if I am reading the runes correctly). He has been able to force Brown to accept that spending needs to be properly controlled and has done this country a service. Brown was trying to position based on politics, Darling has been thinking about the good of the economy.
- He is only 57: A generation or two ago this would have been the perfect age to become leader. Plenty of experience behind him with a track record to point to. Jim Callaghan was 64 when he became leader of the party. Alec Douglas-Home was 60 when he became leader of his. Macmillan 63. Churchill 65. There is no reason why age should be a bar.
So why is he not seriously talked of as a future leader and why is he languishing at 20-1 to succeed?