Who would you like to see succeed Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour Party? Still deluded by the continuation of power and the hopeless yearning that it all might come right next summer, Labour has been strangely united at its conference. Certainly compared to those conferences I well remember in 1979, 1983 and even 1987. The issue scarcely arose. I realize that asking many of you who you would prefer to lead the party, Mandelson, Straw or Harman is akin to asking you to choose between smallpox, diphtheria and bilharzia. But hell, have a heart, indulge me for a few moments. And remember that while Cameron and his ideologically ectoplasmic public school monkeys will win next year, they may not have very long to exercise whatever vague authority it is they possess. Probably about as long as each of them had in the Bullingdon Club, minus the coke. (I mean the soft drink, obviously).
I would be happiest with Jon Cruddas – I think I might even rejoin the party – but it would have to be a fabulous rout for him to succeed. The election of Harperson might ensure that the party does what Anatole Kaletsky suggests it might and sort of evaporates overnight; so for those confirmed Conservatives among you, she might be your choice. I have to confess that try though I might I have not yet come to love Peter Mandelson, although clearly he thinks we lefties all love him now as representing the only possible deliverance from eviction at the polls. You think Brown alienates the voters? Wait until the sinuous, serpentine Mandelson starts smirking from behind a microphone. Straw I would take, because he seems to me likeable enough and with sufficient connection to Old Labour to realise that, from time to time, the party should make the occasional nod in the direction of the working class. I also suspect he was not quite so gung-ho for the Iraq war as most of the rest, but I may be deluding myself in this. Clarke and Milburn are still prowling around, outside the tent; both, at least, are clever people (compared to Harman, I mean). I think I would be happy-ish with Clarke. And then there’s the postie. None, apart from Cruddas and maybe Straw, fill me with enormous enthusiasm.