Leading article: An enervating rivalry that must be resolved sooner rather than later

Share
Related Topics

What on earth does all this mean? Of these multifarious activities, only the Moscow trip could reasonably be described as integral to Mr Brown's responsibilities as Chancellor. All the rest would appear to be preparation for his eventual promotion to Prime Minister.

Following on his Africa tour last year and his speech on Britishness, Mr Brown is now accelerating the diversification of his portfolio and multiplying his opportunities to introduce himself to the people.

In the meantime, key members of the present Cabinet - Charles Clarke, John Reid, Alistair Darling - stated more or less directly that they saw no alternative to Mr Brown as the heir to 10 Downing Street at whatever time Mr Blair chooses to go. The clear message being conveyed was that - as of now - the leadership is united on the matter of the succession; the transition, when it comes, will be smooth and Mr Brown will face no serious challenger.

Some read the signals as evidence that Mr Blair had now accommodated Mr Brown effectively as co-leader; others saw signs of a new understanding between the two and inferred that the Chancellor had been given a date. Still others discerned growing impatience on Mr Brown's part finally to claim his patrimony.

Yet it scarcely matters whether there is a new understanding, a revival of the old Granita restaurant misunderstanding, or no understanding at all. One way or another there has been a perceptible shift in the Chancellor's status and this is unsettling for a country where authority is customarily vested in one Prime Minister. It also poses questions. Who, for instance, is looking after the nation's finances if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is otherwise engaged? And how long is this uncertainty likely to last? If, as Mr Blair suggests from time to time, he intends to serve his full term, we are contemplating at least three more uneasy years.

This is not a happy situation for anyone: not for the Cabinet, not for Mr Brown and certainly not for the voting public. It is easy to say now that Mr Blair made a rare tactical mistake when he allowed himself to be bounced into declaring that the 2005 election would be his last. It was inevitable that speculation about the hand-over would begin almost as soon as the votes were counted last May. Had he not committed himself to leaving before the next election, he would have retained the freedom to depart at the time he chose. That freedom becomes more circumscribed by the day.

Speculation about the handover and jockeying for position threaten to sap the energy of this government. The Prime Minister must finally clarify his intentions.

Mr Brown has placed on record his readiness to join a contest for the leadership, arguing that the country would prefer this to an arrangement stitched up by a coterie of politicians. He is right - and that contest needs to take place sooner rather than later.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Seven per cent of young men have recently stopped using deodorant  

‘Sweaty-gate’ leaves a bad smell for PRs and journalists

Danny Rogers
Alison Parker and Adam Ward: best remembered before tragedy  

The only way is ethics: Graphic portraits of TV killings would upset many, not just our readers in the US

Will Gore
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory