One year after an uncomfortable general election campaign which saw him lose power after almost three years as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown could soon land a plum international job.
The 60-year-old former Labour leader is being tipped to take on a lucrative advisory role at the World Economic Forum (WEF), the influential body which holds meetings of politicians, business leaders and academics in Davos, Switzerland, each winter.
If Mr Brown accepts the job of auditing its policy work, it could prove a stepping stone to the post friends believe he really wants – as the £270,000-a-year managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The WEF post would not involve standing down as MP for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath. But if he goes on to head the Washington-based IMF, he would have to leave British politics. Dominic Strauss-Kahn, the current IMF boss, may stand down to run as the Socialist Party candidate against Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's French presidential election.
The WEF post would involve overseeing its network of 72 "global agenda councils", designed to encourage long-term thinking on the key challenges facing the world. It is believed that Mr Brown could be entitled to a salary and budget of around £750,000.
Since standing down as Prime Minister last May, Mr Brown has been paid £71,544 as a "distinguished global leader in residence" at New York University and £148,280 for three speeches. He did not receive any of this money personally. It is held by the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown for the employment of staff to support his involvement in public life, which includes unpaid work on several projects in Africa.
The £78,289 he was paid for his book Beyond the Crash went to charity.
Friends say Mr Brown has not entered a formal arrangement with the WEF yet. His spokeswoman said last night: "Gordon is helping a number of progressive international organisations while still a full-time MP serving his constituency. Anything he is involved with is registered in the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests." He is currently in the US, where finance ministers from around the world are holding a series of meetings. In a speech in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, this week, he admitted he made a "big mistake" on financial regulation before the banking crisis.
Mr Brown won plaudits around the world for his response to the financial crisis and hosted a successful G20 summit in London in 2009, and is seen as a front-runner for the IMF post. He may win the backing of Mr Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, diplomats say. But to land it, he will need the support of the new economic powers such as India, China, Brazil and Russia, who may challenge the traditional assumption that the IMF chief is a European and the World Bank head an American.
However, Mr Brown could face opposition from the British Government. A source close to the Chancellor, George Osborne, said: "It would be an insult if Gordon Brown were to be put forward for this job. This is the man who wrecked the British economy and has never apologised. It is not going to happen on our watch." The Government might even be prepared to back a non-European candidate for the IMF post in order to put Mr Brown out of the running. The source said: "If Gordon Brown's name is on the table we'll soon find that there's a very talented candidate from Mexico or South Korea to throw our weight behind."
Government officials believe it would be hard for Mr Brown to get the post if his own country's government raised serious objections. His book was widely seen as a job application for the IMF post. Allies of Mr Brown insist that he is content with his new life, making speeches and working for the foundation set up in the name of his late daughter Jennifer. But they acknowledge that the IMF post would give Mr Brown a platform he would relish to focus on development issues in the Third World.
What the World Economic Forum does
The World Economic Forum (WEF) describes itself as an independent body committed to "improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas".
Its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is seen as a gathering of the global economy's prime movers and shakers, a point where the worlds of business, economics and politics come together. The international elite who attend has been dubbed "Davos man".
The WEF, a not-for-profit foundation with no political, partisan or national interests, was founded in 1971. Its headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland, and it opened offices in New York and Beijing in 2006. Its staff come from 56 different countries. It is funded by its 1,000-member companies, typically a global enterprise with a turnover of more than $5bn. Speakers at this year's annual meeting in January included Bill Clinton; Jacob Zuma, the South African President; Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President; Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President and Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister.