Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Alan Milburn could yet be next leader"

When you read a pro-Tony Blair editorial in the Guardian, it has probably been written by Martin Kettle. Now the Guardian's chief Blair sycophant has broken cover and written a signed piece saying that Alan Milburn could be the next PM.

This story exposes what the latest Brown-Blair eruption is really about: who takes over from the PM when he quits. Many Blairites will stop at nothing to keep Gordon Brown out of the top job, even if they have to persuade Blair to promote an ex-Trot who once ran an ultra-leftist bookshop in the north-east called Days of Hope (known locally as Haze of Dope). Milburn has absolutely no experience of national electioneering, so giving him a role as an election strategist can only be interpreted as a snub to Brown.

I witnessed Brown's relationship with Milburn at first hand. They seemed to rub along, but I suspect the Chancellor didn't think Milburn was very bright. Who could be so foolish as to demand the sacking of Yvette Cooper? Only Alan Milburn!

The MP for Darlington has little support among fellow MPs and there isn't a union leader who has a good word to say about the former health secretary. "He thinks the labour movement is something pregnant women have," one told me. Yet while the slippery Milburn gets promoted, the loyal, hard-working Andrew Smith gets hounded out. Smith's hero is Brown, and I suspect that Brown influenced the following sentence in his resignation letter: "I will . . . continue to support you and the government in carrying forward Labour's programme for social justice, a strong economy and opportunity for all."

Yes, Labour's programme and Brown's programme - but not Blair's.

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