Will the PM just stand aside when Labour chooses who will follow him?
With the renewed calls for Tony Blair to leave Number 10 earlier rather than later there’s a new focus on the Labour leadership which had subsided following the French referendum, the 2012 Olympic bid success and the London bombings.
As well as the “go early” calls by trade union leaders there were reports at the weekend of ministers being confused about who to please – Tony or Gordon – and of the Chancellor having drawn up a strategy to get the top job.
Assuming that Tony Blair does do as has has said he will and step down before the next election a key question could be whether he wants the Chancellor to succeed him?
For although a formal endorsement of Gordon Brown by Tony Blair is unlikely and could possibly be unhelpful there is little doubt that the Prime Minister could do a lot of things to help or hinder his Chancellor’s promotion plan. The last Labour PM to resign while in office was Harold Wilson in 1976 and the other potential leaders thought Jim Callaghan got a boost in the leadership election that followed because he knew in advance about the Prime Minister’s retirement plan. Will Tony Blair do the same with Gordon Brown and advise him of his detailed timing plans?
The Blair-Brown relationship has been well documented and the story, no doubt, will continue. It is hard to see how Blair will not have a view about who should follow him and it is not in the Prime Minister’s character to stand aside and not do what he could do to achieve the conclusion that he wants.
Clearly some arrangement was reached in the closing weeks of the General Election campaign when Gordon Brown was brought back into the fold so that for a time the Labour’s proposition was that this was a partnership.
So the big issue on the Labour leadership might not be just when will Blair go but who he wants to get his job.