The coming year will hold many interesting and varied events, some predictable and others less so.

One certainty is that Tony Blair will stand down and the Labour party will have a new leader and the UK will have a new Prime Minister.

Chancellor Gordon Brown seemingly remains everyone’s favourite for the top job, although there are a growing number who believe both Labour and the country would be better off with an alternative leader. The tag of “yesterday’s man” has not really stuck to Mr Brown yet, but the heir apparent of 18 months ago is no longer the shoe-in that many predicted.

Whereas Mr Brown previously set himself slightly apart from Mr Blair to the extent that prior to the last General Election many floating voters were heard to suggest that when putting an “x” next to Labour on the ballot paper they were effectively voting for the Chancellor and not the Prime Minister.

Ironically, the more public displays of loyalty the Chancellor has shown to the Prime Minister the more his popularity seems to have dropped.

Despite this, many pundits confidently predict that the next General Election will be a straight fight between Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron and that the current Chancellor will make the short move along Downing Street to No.10 and the job he has coveted for so long.

Writing in The Observer, Stryker McGuire (Newsweek magazine’s London bureau chief) suggests that the political community in the US capital is already taking a much closer look at Mr Brown (

Although the Blair-Brown partnership has been such an influential one in British politics for so many years – from crafting the first General Election victory through to their much-publicised and often denied falling out over when Mr Blair would stand down – in Washington the focus has always been firmly on the Prime Minister and his Chancellor has been largely overlooked.

It is an interesting and considered article and will no doubt kick-start countless more thoughts, opinions and reflections in the months to come as the countdown to Mr Blair’s departure starts in earnest.

Stryker McGuire makes the point that Mr Blair has been very close to two US presidents – Bill Clinton and George W Bush – despite the fact that they represent two very different political standpoints. However, Mr Bown has no such track record in forging lasting and meaningful political relationships either domestically or internationally – at least not such high-profile ones.

Indeed, the article in The Observer states what many believe will be one of Mr Brown’s priorities on succeeding Mr Blair – creating some distance between Downing Street and the White House.

The approach of Mr Brown is starkly different to that of Mr Blair, but there are many feel that is a bonus rather than a source of criticism.

Yet there are clues to the sort of canny approach favoured by Mr Brown that Mr Blair would be proud of himself.

Installing former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan as an “honorary adviser” to the Treasury and former Vice President Al Gore as a consultant on environmental policy will have gone down well in America, while he has cultivated some of Wall Street’s major players during his successful period as Chancellor.

Whether it will be enough is open to debate, as is the impact of the “Blair factor” on his successor. Mr Brown has been undeniably tainted by the negative image the Prime Minister has endured in more recent years.

As a result, the clamour for a fresh approach and more crucially a fresh face could deal Mr Brown a knock-out blow.

Things will change in 2007. But the big question is whether we’ll get to discover if things would get better under Mr Brown?


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