Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How the Cabinet Lines Up

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How the Cabinet Lines Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

Gordon Brown's most perilous moments will come when he summons Cabinet ministers to discuss their futures. Here is how the key figures in the Cabinet are likely to react

HARRIET HARMAN Labour chairman and Commons Leader The party's deputy leader could be frontrunner for a leadership contest after the election, so the idea of a smooth handover to Alan Johnson now has no attraction to her followers. She is assiduously playing the loyalty card and denies exclaiming "this is my time!" when Brown was in a leadership crisis last summer.

ALISTAIR DARLING Chancellor A critical figure. One of Brown's oldest allies, he is one of the few frank enough to deliver bad news. That could come if the PM tries to shift him to the Home Office. Darling has made clear he would rather resign than leave the Treasury, and has suffered from Brown's refusal to guarantee his future.

ALAN JOHNSON Health Secretary He would almost certainly take over if Brown is forced out, having few enemies and bags of charm. Johnson is determined not to wield the knife and yesterday virtually ruled himself out by saying "no one could do the job better" than Brown. But at 59 this is his only chance to be Prime Minister -- and he will not refuse it.

NICK BROWN Chief Whip Big and brutal, he heads the paramilitary wing of Operation Save Gordon. His loyalty to his namesake is unlimited and if the crunch comes he will go down with the ship. Last night he named five Labour MPs he accused of disloyalty, in a bold bid to expose and isolate enemies.

LORD MANDELSON Business Secretary Always the most intriguing and unfathomable figure. No Cabinet minister has worked harder on TV and radio for Brown to stay. Despite their past conflicts, he has become a key No 10 counsellor since returning to Cabinet in October. But that does mean his private advice when the crisis comes will be even harder to ignore. If Brown loses Mandelson now, the game will be up. …

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