Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Back from the brink

After a couple of days in which it looked like New Labour could genuinely implode, Messrs Blair and Brown appear to have stepped back from the brink once more.

Blair has done the sensible thing and, instead of seeking to provoke Brown beyond endurance, has acknowledged (a) that he probably will end up stepping down well before the end of his third term, (b) that he will organise an orderly handover, and (c) that Gordon remains, publicly at least, his chosen successor.

Inevitably this has been interpreted as meaning he will go next year, but as I have said before, I always thought that was the likelist scenario.

As Nick Robinson has noted, Brown has very little alternative but to go along with this, unless he wants to inherit a fatally divided party.

Of all the punditry that has appeared on this over recent days, quite the most ludicrous came from Robert Harris, who argued that Blair should in fact sack Brown unless he publicly commits to allow him to serve a full third term.

And what do you suppose Gordon would then do next, Mr Harris? Say: "Okay Tony, you win," and slink off to the backbenches to make the occasional speech on neo-endogenous growth theory? No, he would be straight down the Strangers' Bar with Nicky Brown and Dougie Henderson to organise a leadership contest.

By contrast, the most sensible piece of advice was yesterday's Guardian leader pointing out the huge responsibilities now lying on both men to avoid a civil war.

I think they may have just about managed it - for now.

Blair-must-go watch update:

  • Calling for Blair to go now/this year

    Andrew Smith
    Frank Dobson
    Ashok Kumar
    Glenda Jackson
    The Guardian
    The Daily Telegraph
    The Economist
    The New Statesman
    Polly Toynbee
    Matthew Parris
    Jonathan Freedland
    Stephen Pollard
    Paul Linford
    BBC Newsnight poll
    Times Populus poll

  • Demanding a timetable for leadership handover

    Neal Lawson/Compass
    Nick Raynsford
    Martin Salter

  • Calling for Blair to go next year

    The Times
    Rhodri Morgan

  • Calling for Blair to serve "full third term."

    Robert Harris
    Janet Anderson

    Ellee Seymour said...

    I can't see Blair wanting to step down before his 10th anniversary. But whether Labour will wait that long remains to be seen.

    skipper said...

    You have to admit though Paul, that Harris's article did make quite a convincing case for Brown's disloyalty, considering he would have been easily beaten by Blair had he stood against him. In retrospect TB must hugely regret not having resolved the problem of who was really the party's choice. By avoiding the problem then he condemned himself to carry it like an albatross for the next 12 years and finally to be impaled upon it.