Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Robin Cook to be Gordon Brown's deputy"

No one can doubt that Robin Cook has come out of the Iraq war with his reputation enhanced. The conflict gave the former foreign secretary the opportunity to leave with good grace. Through his seemingly principled opposition, he has gained respect from friends and enemies alike.

For those in the media village at Westminster, Cook's favourable statements about Gordon Brown's handling of the economy has enabled them to speculate about his future. This new "love affair" with the Chancellor is, we are told, all designed to position him to be the next deputy leader.

The two Scots are supposed to have been bitter enemies, though little evidence is ever forthcoming to substantiate this. I remember Brown being the first to commiserate with Cook following his messy marriage break-up. If they were ever bitter enemies, they buried the hatchet years ago.

Cook is now supposed to be turning on the charm to woo Brown's allies. Proof of this is an interview in the Telegraph where Cook praises Jack Straw, blaming Tony Blair and not the Foreign Secretary for the war. All this allegedly means that Cook is lining up to become Brown's number two. Rubbish. The Labour Party may want to look to a younger figure - even a woman - to take on the job. Brown backed a woman last time around and, given his record of having at least two female Treasury ministers at all times, the Chancellor will surely wish to see a gender balance at the top of the party.

Cook may well be in line for a comeback with Brown as Prime Minister, but surely not as deputy leader. How about "Red" Dawn Primarolo for that job?

This article first appeared in the 07 June 2004 issue of the New Statesman, D-Day for British politics