The Sketch: Forget Miliband, it's time for Harriet, bringer of a great depression

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The Independent Online

The screen was showing an anti-bullying video commissioned by Ed Balls. That made us laugh. The Mental Health Minister Ivan Lewis – himself cruelly bullied – walked across the sightline leaving the hall. A child on screen was rehearsing her catechism: "We won't take sides. We won't gossip. We won't tell you what to do." It's beyond commentary, isn't it? It would be the end of government as we know it.

In retrospect, the conference must have been more interesting than it seemed at the time. David Miliband's reputation may not recover. That comedy face he pulled after his speech – the one which ran in every newspaper in the world – will be made into masks by his enemies and worn to fancy-dress parties. No, he's surely a busted flush now. Maybe Gordon will make him Transport Secretary. Instead of standing up to Russian imperialism he'll be implementing a targeted bus pass plan in Kettering. Gordon is on hold, but the cost is escalating. He announced the end of the "something-for-nothing society" while launching "free" this, that and the other for key groups of swing voters. He gave us no indication that losses in this crisis may hit £3 trillion (that's what the Sketch estimates, not infallibly). His "cautious optimism" and desire to "seize the opportunities presented by the crisis" suggest that he'll debauch public finances to keep himself in office. And following this example, speakers routinely called for a fourth election victory. "Seven More Years!" It's such a powerful proposition it could be used by the Tories: "Seven more years?" In truth it is unimaginable. They really shouldn't be saying this sort of thing out loud. Not in public.

Brown will probably go through to the election, if he wants to. The slaughter will be prodigious. Miliband's support will disappear (they'll lose their seats). And Labour will need a new leader.

Alan Johnson? He's still in the game with his intelligent reluctance. He may yet have greatness thrust upon him. Hazel Blears. I can't see the Bride of Chucky becoming Prime Minister. Maybe I lack imagination. Ed Balls? Most improved speaker in the Cabinet and growing month by month. But alas, the focus groups cover their eyes and ears when he's put on the screen.

No, in the post-apocalyptic Parliament there is one other Labour leader that would do the trick. One particular politician could turn a political recession into a generational depression: Harriet Harman. In a crushed, scattered, left-dominated Labour rump – think she'd get it. She really wants it. The Tories really want it for her. Her time is coming!