Even if Brown loses on Thursday night don’t expect him to walk straight away. I reported this morning that he may announce his departure – but that it would not take place until the autumn.
This was the strategy of Michael Howard in 2005 that led to a reasonably orderly succession in October of that year for the Tory party.
If Mr Brown were to quit on Friday, the temporary leadership would probably fall to Harriet Harman because of her role as deputy leader of the party. This would follow a precedent set by Margaret Beckett, former deputy leader, after the death of John Smith.
But other cabinet ministers are understood to be uncomfortable about the idea of having an “interim leader” because it would give that person an advantage in the subsequent leadership race. “It’s a really bad idea,” said one Labour aide. “No one wants it,” said another party insider.
Allowing Mr Brown to remain at the helm, but setting a date for his departure, could allow the party several months to adjust to its new situation.
Staying on would also allow Brown to help ease his friend Balls into the leadership – as long as the latter retains his Morley & Outwood seat.
Of course, (almost) all Labour aides insist they aren’t remotely thinking about such trivial nonsense, all they care about is getting the vote out and ensuring a Future Fair For All etc.
And the latest YouGov poll (with Tories at 35 per cent and Labour at 30 per cent) has also been good for Labour morale; if true it would indicate the party getting the most seats.