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Will Labour PMQ stand-in Harriet seize the moment?

July 9th, 2008

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    Does her elected status mean she’s fire-proof?

When Harriet Harman, first stood in for Brown at PMQs at the start of April there were widespread expectations that Cameron’s stand-in, William Hague, would do to her what he had done to the former deputy PM, John Prescott. But Harriet was ready and by all accounts came out from the exchanges on level terms if not better (judge for yourself by clicking the panel above)

Today the woman who was the surprise victor in last year’s deputy leadership election will be standing in for Brown again but in very much changed circumstances. All the polls have Labour in the 20s with the Tories in the 40s, London’s City Hall is under Tory Boris Johnson, and her party has had two awful by election results.

With the talk now being dominated by how long Brown can hold on and who would take his place there are growing suggestions that surrogates for Harriet are quietly sounding out opinion about her acceptability – first as a stand in PM if that post became vacant and then as a possibility for the main job itself.

The big political story in the Sun this morning is headed “Harriet bids to become PM” and seemingly she is the one Labour figure prepared to put her head above the parapet.

    Because of that deputy leadership victory Harriet is in completely different position from all her other cabinet colleagues. She owes her position as a senior party figure not to Brown but to the movement as a whole and by all accounts she seems prepared to exploit it.

It is, of course, that same complex Labour electoral system that would be used in a contested leadership election and Harriet showed last year that she had mastered it beating off some “big beasts” in the process.

Which brings us to today’s PMQs at noon where she will be standing in for Brown who is at the G8 meeting. A good performance today could add to her platform – a bad one could dish her hopes completely.

Last night at a party I bumped into the first person to talk of a possible Harman leadership, Daniel Finkelstein, who argued that “Labour members will be looking for a more left wing candidate as leader, not another straight moderniser.” I agree. On Monday I put the grand sum of £12 on her at 16/1 to be the next occupant of Number 10 on Betfair’s “Next PM” market. The best you can get this morning is 5/1.

Mike Smithson






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