The decision of John Reid to stand down as Home Secretary and return to the back benches when Tony Blair departs as Prime Minister will undoubtedly smooth the path of Gordon Brown to No. 10 Downing Street.

The Chancellor is now unlikely to face a heavy-hitter in any leadership contest with all the front-line possibilities having publicly declared they would not be standing against him.

If Mr Brown does face a challenge, it will probably come from the left of the party and is almost certainly doomed to failure.

The Chancellor would have been mightily relieved that Mr Reid has decided to resign rather than mount what would have been a stern challenge.

However, he presents Mr Brown with something of a poisoned chalice. Although he will ease back from the front benches and Mr Brown will not have to find a Cabinet spot for a colleague he has never seen eye-to-eye with, the Prime Minister in waiting will still have a major challenge in tackling the Home Office.

Mr Reid’s appointment as Home Secretary was seen as a way of bringing the department back on an even keel,  but arguably the Home Office is still in as much of a mess as when he took over from Charles Clarke.

Finding someone capable of turning around a department that has flummoxed three of Labour’s most experienced politicians – Reid, Clarke and David Blunkett – will be no easy task.

It is likely that Mr Brown will have precious little time in the top job before he fights a General Election.

Wasting valuable time putting various departments in order might seriously undermine his hopes of securing an election triumph.

So, despite not mounting a leadership challenge, Mr Reid could still play a role in scuppering Gordon Brown’s long-held ambition to win a General Election and become Prime Minister in his failure to make the Home Office fit for purpose.

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