A chat over coffee (with Chris in London)
Sometimes you get a set of political circumstances that make the mind boggle with rumour and anticipation, and this is one such time. The coming together of the European Elections on June 4th with local government elections in the UK and an ongoing expenses scandal has diminished the appeal for mainstream parties in the UK and is creating the conditions for a perfect political storm.
Voter apathy will more than likely result in poor showing for Labour and exaggerated proportions for minority parties like the Greens, UKIP and, worryingly, the BNP. The Prime Minister is in a corner and will need newspaper headlines within hours of the election. Speculation is rife for a big Cabinet reshuffle, so where is the pressure?
- Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has become a magnet for some dreadful headlines, like her husband’s secret taxpayer subsidised porn and the stabvest incident – “et tu, Gordon?”.
- Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary is the proverbial red squirrel – small, chirpy and in danger of extinction – demoting her would look strong after her vocal criticisms.
- Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary has some expenses mud stuck to him and recently alienated the rail industry. He could face European exile if his loyalty to Brown can’t save him.
- Remember former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson? The now Baron Mandelson of Foy has performed strongly but is unlikely to get his dream of Foreign Secretary as he is too good on domestic tactics to go abroad (and Brown will want to keep his Blairite rival David Miliband away too). A possible for the Home Office.
- Husband and wife Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper answer unswervingly to the PM from their adjoining constituencies, and Ed Balls is Brown’s anointed heir. Keep an eye on this couple.
- Rumoured to have spent a ‘secret weekend’ with the PM in Chequers, we may see the return of Sadie to the front benches as guide dog to the new Communities Secretary, David Blunkett.
- Peter Hain, famed for his “tango-man” perma-tan could be in for a shock recall to the front benches.