The Racing Card

The Bet - Who will be the next foreign secretary?

Jack Straw: 2-1
Peter Mandelson: 4-1
Geoff Hoon: 10-1
John Prescott: 25-1
Robin Cook: 100-1

(Source: Charlie Whelan)

MPs who frequent Annie's Bar in Westminster can make secret predictions as to who will get what job in Blair's first Cabinet following the next general election. Not one of them has Robin Cook down as foreign secretary. Cook's latest attack on Gordon Brown may have made the Foreign Office feel good, but it almost certainly ensured his sacking after the election. Having originally upset the Foreign Office mandarins by embarking on his disastrous "ethical foreign policy", Cook is now loved by them.

Most importantly, he has "flip-flopped" on Europe. This is crucial to the Foreign Office because, now that it has no empire to run, being influential in Europe will ensure its top status, and joining the euro is part of the plan. The FO hates the Treasury more than any other department, including No 10. This is why, at international summits that it organises, it ensures that the Chancellor and Treasury officials are treated as second-class citizens. At the G8 Denver summit, there was just one room the size of a shoebox and one phone for Gordon Brown, but a suite of offices for FO officials. Is it any wonder that the Chancellor refuses to stay at their opulent and expensive embassies, preferring hotels instead?

Many people expect Peter Mandelson to get the job, but he is hated abroad almost as much as he is in Britain, so Jack Straw is the current favourite. Geoff Hoon is in with a chance, having done OK at Defence. John Prescott would love the job, but won't get it. As usual, there are no women in the frame - much too important a position for one of them!

This article first appeared in the 27 November 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The rise of stealthy wealth