Could the Tony Blair show go on and on and…..?

Could the Tony Blair show go on and on and…..?

    The markets think he’s going in 18 months – don’t believe it

Judging by prices in the When will Blair go market the expectation is that Tony Blair will be handing over to Gordon Brown or AN Other within the next eighteen months. It’s just 2/1 against him making the change this year and 5/4 against him stepping down in 2006. You can get a massive 20/1 against Tony Blair still being Prime Minister on January 1st 2010.

It’s the same picture on the Spreadfair “How many weeks will Blair’s third term last” spreadbetting market where the current range of 80-89 weeks, starting last week, takes us until the end of next year.

    But as each day has gone by since the General Election Tony Blair has looked increasingly less like a Prime Minister with a finite life.

The Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament might give us more clues but what are the factors that will cause him to make this final decision? And what is Tony Blair, who is still in his early 50s, going to do on his “retirement”?

Could it be that the famous statement about him not fighting another General Election, made on the night of the Hartlepool by-election last September, was just another “device” to deal with the issue of the moment. There have been precedents – the alleged discussion at the Granita restaurant and what was reported to have been said at John Prescott’s infamous Admiralty Arch dinner with him and Gordon Brown at the end of 2003?

Tony Blair’s parliamentary position is not as strong as it was and the scope for rebels to exert pressure is that much greater. But how easy would it be for dissidents to seek to force issues in this way especially as Tony Blair would do what he has always done when faced with a threat to his leadership and waved the threat of a Tory victory at those seeking to discomfort him?

As a general rule we do not like these long-term markets where you hand over money to the bookmaker for years. But the odds on Tony Blair going in the next eighteen month seem far too tight.

Mike Smithson

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