Monday, April 03, 2006

Will Blair and Brown step back from the brink?

"Nobody seriously believes that, in an ideal world, Mr Brown would be his first choice of successor - but Mr Blair is nothing if not a political realist. He knows that a war of succession between Blairites and the Brownites would tear the Labour Party apart and condemn it to certain defeat at the next General Election."

So I argued in my column and accompanying podcast this weekend.

Not an especially original point, I know, but for me, it's still the clincher when assessing the likely denouement of the Blair premiership.

There are a lot of people claiming that Blair is now determined to block Brown, and some of those people are much closer to the action than I am, but for my part I just can't believe Blair would want to inflict on the party the kind of electoral damage a war of succession would cause.

In his Observer column yesterday, Andrew Rawnsley came up with what he thought was an ingenious way for Mr Blair to reclaim his authority and effectively throw down the gauntlet to Brown, by naming a late date for his departure. But that would certainly blow the chances of an orderly handover sky-high in my view.

Meanwhile Labour Watch is speculating that the Alan Milburn leadership bid reported in the Sunday Mirror is really designed to damage Brown and allow David Miliband to come through the middle.

However Mike White, writing on the Comment is Free blog, takes a similar view to me, although I wouldn't quite go as far as he does in attributing most of the current flurry of speculation to mischievous hacks.

White is also dismissive of the prospect of a Milburn challenge, saying: "He has little or no following in the Parliamentary Labour party and he's not daft either."


ContraTory said...

Will Blair and Brown step back from the brink? I suspect the question is becoming irrelevant. It is clear that if he succeeds Mr Blair, Mr Brown will be leading a divided party in which competing factions brief against each other continually. It is better to "have it out in the open" now. By that means, it should all have been "sorted" in good time for the next General Election.

skipper said...

All these are mere(entertaining) speculations, of course, and we're playing at guessing correctly. Given this I've ong felt that, while Blair should have gone about the time of Hutton, he survived and went on to win the last election. Since then he's displayed a new lease of life and it's obvious to me at least that he does not want to go yet awhile. I nearly punted on him staying until spring 2009 a day or so back but couldn't find a good enough price. The bottom line is that Blair knows that as long as Labour MPs won't risk their own seats via a bloody decapitation, he can sit tight with impunity.