Just when will he step down?

Just when will he step down?

    Could the handover take place the day after polling day?

For two and a half months we have been saying repeatedly that Tony Blair will go on as Prime Minister for much much longer than received wisdom had it and those that followed our advice in mid-May are sitting on some promising bets. Ten days after the election we said “The markets think he’s going in 18 months – don’t believe it”.

The latest speculation following the comments by his agent seems to indicate that he is going almost right up to the next election – but when precisely will this change take place?

    For if Tony Blair is not to go back to the back-benches then Gordon Brown, if indeed it is he, would have to make him a minister. An alternative scenario is for Blair to go through the election right until polling day with everybody knowing that he was stepping down immediately afterwards.

Has Tony Blair got in mind a US-type change where he would sit through the election giving lofty moral support to Gordon Brown, or whoever, who would be out there fighting a presidential-type campaign? The only problem for Gordon Brown is all of this is that the longer he is not in Number 10 the greater the chance of his leadership ambitions being knocked off course by events.

This might require a bit of bending of Labour party rules but as Ken Livingstone will testify Tony Blair has always been ready to do this when it has been politically expedient.

The betting prices have, of course, changed dramatically in the past eleven weeks and now the best bet if you are happy to tie your cash up for 29 months, is the 1.8/1 that’s available against Blair being still in post on January 1 2008.

Mike Smithson

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