Could Blair stay to fight another election?
As the polls were closing at the Hartlepool by-election on September 30th 2004 Tony Blair issued a statement that he was about to go into hospital for a small procedure and that he would stand down as Labour leader and Prime Minister before the then next General Election but one – which is probably scheduled for 2009.
The move seemed designed to deal with ongoing unpopularity following the Iraq war and to end the speculation about his position within the Labour party. In essence he was saying that he was going to go but not immediately.
As a device it worked and since then the Westminster village has been trying to guess when he would in fact leave Number 10. In the immediate aftermath of the May 5th victory there was much talk of a handover to Gordon Brown within months – and certainly not the years envisaged in his September 30th statement. In the first week after the election you could have got just 2/1 on a transition during 2005.
Following the victory over France in securing the 2012 Olympics for London and the general acclaim at the way he, personally, has dealt with the bombings and their aftermath there’ve been weekend press reports that Blair might just be considering staying on.
Quite how Tony Blair would square a statement that he was not, after all, standing aside with what he said last year we do not know. But to him such turnarounds are merely minor linguistic challenges. In the normal Blair way he would get away with it.
From all the reports the critical thing to him personally is whether or not his continuation in the job is undermining or helping Labour and it’s here that we think there has been a change of view. He did not go when everything was against him so why should he leave when things are going he his way. Of course there would be ructions from the Chancellor and parts of the party – but since when has Blair been worried about this?
The spread-betting market that we very much like is Sporting Index’s BetHiLo spread on how many months the Blair third term will last. It’s currently at 19-21 month so a buy would give you increasing profits for every month he stayed after February 2007. This looks great value.