I started writing down why I think Gordon Brown would be a poor leader of the Labour party. Within 30 seconds I had more than 10 bullet points, they are, in no particular order;
1. Control Freakery - if this article in the Guardian is true, he is even trying to shut down policy debate that is essential if we are to change our image (and unlike the Tories actually change some policies as well), that is how to win the next election.
2. Continuity - The electorate are fed up of us, the last thing we need is the same old face, we need a radical break and a new face untainted by New Labour disasters.
3. Left Wing Image - yes, according to YouGov, Brown is placed well to the left, compared to Blair who comes out almost dead centre. The middle ground is where we need to be. A Labour leader would not last 5 minutes with our right wing press if allowed to be painted as too Old Labour.
4. The Opinion Polls - we would be mad to ignore the fact that Gordon Brown is so unliked he is more unpopular than an already unpopular Labour party - he drags our rating DOWN! Like I warned the Lib Dems when they elected Menzies Campbell - 'Ming's weak image will take you nowhere' - they have since lost 6%-7% at the polls. Those who point to Brown helping us out in 2005, forget two things - that the boost was more about 'unity' at the top than Brown's image/abilities and also of course who wouldn't have a better likeability than Michael Howard? Cameron is a different kettle of fish.
5. Communication - Brown is awkward, humourless and looks totally ill at ease talking to the electorate and interviewers. These things do matter. Even if the policies are good, it is just as important they are communicated well, otherwise they count for nothing. This is especially important for us in the face of the overwhelmingly hostile media and now that the Tories have a PR guru as leader spinning away. We also used to have likeable Lib Dem leader Kennedy backing us in exposing the Tories, now the Lib Dems have elected a non-entity as leader, it is more important than ever that we have an effective leader highlighting Tory hypocritical policy.
6. Dunfermline by-election result - In Brown's back-water (next door seat), a should-be safish Labour seat was lost despite his best intensive efforts - with strong local campaigning and high personal exposure in the local campaign. This is the only electoral test he has faced (shielded as he has been by Tony Blair taking the wrap for poor results and policy). Brown has comprehensively failed the electoral challenge.
7. Iraq War - Brown is closely associated with this debacle and well known to have voted in favour.
8. Political Cowardice - When some things go wrong, who is Brown going to hide behind when he is leader?
9. The Euro - I know most of you probably agree with Brown on this, and as a short term strategy (like consumer debt) it has boosted an economy (built on sand?), unfortunately as the Eurozone starts to power ahead in the next 5,10,20 years, we will be begging to join, just like we were with membership of the EU.
10. PR - It was John Prescott, Ian McCartney and Gordon Brown that pulled Blair back from his enthusiam for PR. This doesn't bold well for Brown's democratic principles - just when a weak parliament, emaciated local democracy and electoral system needs them most.
11. Religion - Brown is more religious than Blair. I have just written 'clueless idiot' next to this bullet point. I think you know what I mean. (This also rules out people like Hilary Benn for deputy).
12. Defeat in General Election - Most important of all, it doesn't take a genius to see we are sleepwalking to defeat under Brown.
So far only a couple of lefty losers have thrown their names into the leadership hat. I think from the ranks of cabinet high flyers crowding the 'deputy' stakes we can safely say that they have ruled themselves out. This is a big disappointment but there is still plenty of time for a centrist candidate to come through, even Miliband could do a u-turn if they spin it right, he certainly is in a strong position to win, with media curiousity and an unblemished cabinet post. Personally I think he is too predictably establishment but he certainly could handle the media far better than Brown.
Although not a good example considering his ill feted reign, John Major came through from total obscurity to become PM and it must not be forgotten that he was the most popular PM ever, winning an unlikely fourth term for the Tories with the highest vote numbers ever - over 14m. John Major although installed as chancellor for a few months, was a total unknown to most voters when elected leader.
I would like to see several candidates from all wings of the party, but most important of all is the challenge from the centre. I have been arguing for some time for John Denham to stand and there is still enough time. It is good to see this idea in the national media. A principled anti-war MP is just the tonic we all need.
PS - Correct me if I am wrong on this, but I think a Labour MP can vote for more than one candidate in this Labour leadership election - so getting 44 MPs should be attainable for quite a few.