Monday, March 27, 2006

Blair-must-go watch: So is he staying after all?

What are we to make of the situation regarding Tony Blair's leadership following his admission that he may have "made a mistake" in pre-announcing his decision to resign at the end of a third term?

Downing Street is predictably trying to play down the comment, but as far as the Brownite Guardian commentator Jackie Ashley is concerned, it's a declaration of war.

Ashley's argument is that there is agreement on an handover date to Gordon Brown and that the Prime Minister means to stay on as long as he possibly can - all the better if that means an alternative succession candidate has a chance to come forward.

In this context, I would draw attention to an extraordinary piece is currently running in the Press Gazette's Axe Grinder column. Although it has not been followed up by the MSM, that of course does not necessarily mean it is not true.

I can't link to it as the Press Gazette is a subscription only site (growl) but the gist is that the loans-for-peerages revelations have caused a near-irreperable breakdown in relations on both sides - on Brown's side, because he believes Blair is tarnishing the Labour Party, and on Blair's, because he believes Brown's people blew the whistle on it.

"One senior ex-minister told Axegrinder the disclosures were the last straw for Brown, who believes the loans have dealt a hammer blow to his and the Government's reputation for financial probity. Extraordinarily, the veteran politician said: "Gordon has told Tony ‘I didn't get you on education, but I will get you on sleaze'."

Incidentally, the UKPG piece goes onto say that the Guardian's decision to call for Blair's head has caused consternation in its "Blairite" political team which might explain why Mike White was so keen to disassociate himself from it on Sky News last week (see previous posts.)

But I digress. What is becoming clear is that Blair intends to try and go on to that 10th anniversary of his coming to power next May - whether Gordon likes it or not.

Whether he manages it will depend largely on events, in particular whether there are any further damaging sleaze revelations, whether there are further major backbench rebellions on key legislation, and whether Labour's position in the polls starts to deteriorate.

But I have to say that if any of the above rumours are true, then things are not looking good for that fabled "orderly transition."

If the Blairites sincerely do believe Gordon was behind the loans-for-peerages disclosures, or that he is trying to use them to bring about the Prime Minister's political assassination, they will not forgive him.

They will run an alternative candidate against him - Milburn or Miliband are the most likely contenders - and, although Brown will still win, he will inherit a fatally divided party that will go on to lose - and lose bad - in 2009/10.


stalin's gran said...

Tribune says "go now"

skipper said...

My guess Paul, is that he's focused on equalling or defeating Maggie's record of 11 and a half years which would take him up, effectively to 2009. If I could find a bookie to take the bet I'd put at least a tenner on it.

jane said...

Ashok Kumar is a decent bloke and you are quite right that he has shown no discernible Brownite tendencies so far. It should have occurred to you though that reselection of Labour MPs is supposed to happen this year or early next, and the Labour members who turn out at meetings to endorse (or otherwise) their Labour MP will look primarily for evidence of loathing of the Labour Government in general and the Prime Minister in particular. Watch too for glowing praise in the House by Labour MPs of their own council or the nearest Labour one - actually they hate the b*****ds, but with the near-disappearance of ordinary Labour activists it is councillors who run constituency parties these days.

Martin said...

"I can't link to it as the Press Gazette is a subscription only site"


Press Gazette hasn't been subscription-only for some time now. The story you want is (freely available) here: