Wednesday, June 28, 2006

For Labour, all roads lead to Manchester

The Daily Telegraph believes he's now ready to go next year. Meanwhile the Grauniad says he wants to thrash out a new private understanding with Gordon Brown over the timing of the handover. Nick Robinson ain't convinced, and reckons "events" might yet come to his rescue.

So does all this tell us anything new about Tony Blair's political future? Well, the triple by-lines on the two broadsheet tales suggest to me a slight hedging of bets, perhaps...?

The one thing most pundits seem to agree on though is that the thing needs to be sorted out by the time of Labour's conference in Manchester this September, or risk that event turning into a media shambles dominated by speculation about the succession.

Here's what I wrote on this particular issue in the Manchester-based North-West Enquirer a week ago

"For the Labour Party now, it seems all roads are pointing to Manchester, where this year’s annual conference will take place - the first to be held at a non-seaside venue for many years.

"The pattern of Labour conferences in recent years has been a big speech by Brown on the Monday, setting out his vision and leadership credentials, followed by a defiant message from Blair on the Tuesday that he’s here to stay.

"It won’t work this time round. Everyone knows Blair is going, and Brown has made too many leader-in-waiting speeches for another one to be taken seriously.

"Hence it is my hunch that the Prime Minister will not be able to leave Manchester without being forced to do the one thing he most wants to avoid: to name the date for his departure."

The Guardian story suggests that Blair still wants to avoid giving a public commitment by reaching a private understanding with Brown. But once it is obvious that such a private understanding has been reached, it will also be obvious that Blair is going next year.

In this context, Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home has set up this site where visitors can log their predictions of the Prime Minister's exact departure date, with the chance to win £500.

I won't be entering myself because, as a journalist, I don't believe in betting on political outcomes which you might have to write about and which you might thereby be in a position to influence in some small way.

That said, I'm happy to accede to Tim's request to add the link for anyone else who wants to try their luck.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You neglect to mention that Conservative Home's When Will Blair Go? competition costs £1.50 per entry!

Before we all rush to stake our claim on that £500 perhaps we ought to consider whether (after the first 334 entries) we want to be contributing to Tory funds.