A Straw-Cook Alliance, an Aussie Verdict on Alastair, and MPs Carry on Scrubbing. (the Insider)

By Routledge, Paul | New Statesman (1996), March 17, 2003 | Go to article overview

A Straw-Cook Alliance, an Aussie Verdict on Alastair, and MPs Carry on Scrubbing. (the Insider)


Routledge, Paul, New Statesman (1996)


For the first time in Tony Blair's nine-year tenure as leader, MPs are actively canvassing the names of successors. They are talking of Jack Straw in an improbable alliance with Robin Cook as a "dream ticket". The two worked on the late Peter Shore's team when he was shadow chancellor (1980-83), and apparently got on well. The charm of the arrangement (to some) is that the alliance could not only keep Gordon Brown out of No 10, but also turf him out of No 11, since either man could play chancellor to the other's premier. The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, is ruled out as a contender. But, extraordinarily, Charles Clarke is not -- the Education Secretary may throw his hat in the ring, it is said, mainly as a marker for the next vacancy. Such talk may seem frivolous, but even some of Blair's closest friends think he may quit after the Iraq business is over.

Meantime, the Great Helmsman continues to prefer the company of rightwing national leaders to those who might once have belonged to the Socialist International. But he doesn't always impress them. On his recent visit, the Aussie prime minister, John Howard, went to breakfast in Downing Street. While the statesmen slurped their coffee, a tall, gaunt man burst in. He yelled instructions, telling Blair what to do that day and "what we are telling the press", and left just as abruptly. Howard later asked aides who this mystery Svengali might be. They recognised his description. Yes, it was Alastair Campbell. "He wouldn't last five minutes back home," said the nasty Oz.

By the way, the rumour mill insists that there are more smoking e-mails on Cheriegate, the affair linking the con man Peter Foster and the Blairs' purchase of two flats in Bristol. …

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