The Racing Card

The Bet - Who will be the next Labour leader?

Gordon Brown 5-4
Jack Straw 4-1
Alan Milburn 4-1
Stephen Byers 5-1
Mo Mowlam 7-1
Douglas Alexander 10-1
Yvette Cooper 12-1
Ken Livingstone 2,000-1

(Source Ladbrokes)

The Blair baby has got the media into a state of excitement usually reserved for a similar royal event. The happy couple even made the cover of Hello!. The Sunday papers were quick to oust Gordon Brown from his Downing Street flat to make room for the new arrival. This would be easy, they claimed, as the Blairs' flat is only separated from Brown's by an adjoining door. Actually they are at completely opposite ends of the building. The more astute political commentators thought that the baby would mean that Tony Blair would give up his job earlier than expected, leaving the way open for Brown.

Despite Alastair Campbell's botched briefing that Blair would do a Thatcher and go on for ever, money has continued to pour in for Brown. I even put a few bob him on myself. His odds have shortened from 7-4 to 5-4. There are two surprising entrants to the field. Douglas Alexander, at 10-1, is a close friend of both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, and has been given the task of masterminding the next election campaign following his success with Gordon Brown in the Scottish election. Yvette Cooper, the new health minister, is married to the chief economic adviser to the Treasury, Ed Balls, and has made a very impressive start in her new job. And she has a new baby, too.

John Prescott's odds at 12-1 might seem generous given that he would automatically take over if Blair fell under a bus (or a Jag), but the bet only stands for the next elected leader.

Charlie Whelan

This article first appeared in the 29 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, An explosion of puffery