Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Unions will be choosing our next prime minister"

Following the Great Leader's big decision to tell us when roughly he will chuck it in, I wondered how long it would be before some bright hack whinged on about the way his successor will be elected. In the end, it was up to my old friend Martin Kettle, Tony Blair's favourite columnist, to write, in the Guardian: "Some [leadership contenders] may be tempted to make offers [to union leaders] that will not be in the wider national interest." You can just see it now, can't you? Derek Simpson tells Gordon Brown that he can have his support - if he gives the DTI more money to help manufacturing industry.

It actually doesn't matter that much what Simpson thinks about who should be the next leader, because, like his union members, he has only one vote. But what people like Kettle really don't like is that Simpson's Amicus members will almost certainly vote for Brown, and not Blair's ex-Trot running dog, Alan Milburn.

Kettle also thinks the decline in union membership leaves "the appropriateness of the party's leadership electoral system seriously at issue". Some people were never happy about the unions having a say in the election of leader; most of those left to form their own party, the SDP. Sadly, some stayed. However, most members think that, as it was the unions that formed the party in the first place, it's fair enough that they have a vote. And yet, already, some Blairites are complaining.

In fact, Labour's electoral system has enabled Blair to become the party's strongest leader ever.

What Kettle should be complaining about is that there's no real process for dumping a lame-duck leader.