On the surface, this may seem perverse. After all, does she not face an almighty struggle to re-establish Labour's credentials in farming and rural communities? But let's suspend belief for just a brief moment to see how such a conclusion is being reached. Beckett, it is contended, is a survivor who has seen all this before, and lived to tell the tale. As a once hard-leftist in Callaghan's government (the only remaining cabinet member who can make such a claim), she managed to stay at the forefront of Labour politics throughout the turbulent wilderness years. Following the 1997 election triumph she became a member of the cabinet, albeit an obscure one, until just before the last election when many assumed she was for the chop. But no! According to the prime minister, she possessed the most prized, but elusive, of all New Labour qualities: she could deliver. Her reward? The single most difficult job in a Labour cabinet: agriculture minister, throwing in rural affairs just for good measure ­ the political equivalent of having a joint Tory health and education secretary. All this in the middle of the biggest crisis in farming in living memory. Many expected her to fall almost immediately, but her luck has remained in, at least for the time being. Not only has she been blessed with a still hapless opposition, the current international situation has given her the cover to rush through the food and farming inquiry before politics returns to normal again (the ultra-short deadline, which many high profile organisations were embarrassed to find was not being extended, as is customary, is evidence of this alone). Surely, the question now is just how long will her luck, or should that be skill, hold? {{NEWS }}