Brown’s future in doubt

By Ian Dunt

Rumours about Labour’s ability to weather the current the political storm abound, with many commentators already drawing up a list of potential leadership contenders.

Unsubstantiated reports indicate some Labour figures now believe the Conservatives should be given the opportunity to form a minority government if talks with the Liberal Democrats collapse.

If so, a Labour leadership contest would soon be triggered.

There are no constitutional reasons why a minority Tory government should take precedence over a ‘rainbow coalition’ of Labour, the Lib Dems and the nationalists, but Labour figures fear they will lose all public support if they are seen to cling to power too long.

Most key figures in the party have been maintaining strict radio-silence over the weekend, but parliamentary observers presume some preliminary work was already takings place for a contest.

David Miliband is one obvious contender, given his refusal to go the distance and make a formal challenge during the last two summers. Bookmakers are expected to make him favourite, as things stand.

His brother Ed is also expected to stand. Well-respected for his intellect by those who work closely with him, Ed Miliband has a far lower public profile than his brother and his politics are marginally to the left.

Alan Johnson and Ed Balls, Mr Brown’s favoured successor, are also expected to stand.

Jon Cruddas, the Labour backbencher who holds massive sway over the left of the party, may also run. Other reports suggest he could unite the left and the Blairite wings of the party via a ‘dream ticket’ with David Miliband.

Bookmakers William Hill backed Gordon Brown from 7/4 to 5/4 to still to be prime minister on Wednesday, and 4/7 to be gone by then.

“As the discussions drag on, so the odds for Gordon Brown to survive until Wednesday and beyond are shortening,” said Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe.