Will Tony relish a new challenge?

Will Tony relish a new challenge?

For his next trick…
Tony Blair at the despatch box
What recent speculation there’s been about the political future of Tony Blair has mostly concentrated on the impatience of some of his own MPs to get rid of him: the prospect, for example, of Glenda Jackson as a stalking horse next autumn. But could it be that current events in the Conservative party are making Blair keener to continue?

Even Tony Blair’s political detractors have to see the skill in the way he conducts himself at Prime Minister’s Questions. What is his technique? Does he answer the question with overwhelming rhetorical force and make his opponent see the error of his or her ways? Of course not. Blair does something more important – he understands that what really matters is the soundbite that makes it onto the TV news. And so he plays his role ironically – a raised eyebrow is always saying to the viewers: “I’m with you. I know this is all silly schoolboy stuff, but I have to play along.” This style humiliated Iain Duncan Smith, and prevented William Hague and Michael Howard from landing serious blows on him despite their greater forensic skills.

All in all, Blair gives every impression of loving it when he fights Tories – and that probably isn’t an act. So the prospect of duelling with the impeccably media-trained David Cameron may increase his determination to go on. He just needs to persuade his MPs to let him.

Currently the best odds on the year of Blair’s departure are: 7/2 2006; 7/4 2007; 9/4 2008; and 5/2 2009 or after. Betfair also has a market broken down into three-month periods.

Some readers may have noticed that odds are available on the Conservative leadership election. The best odds there are currently: 1/5 Cameron; 5/1 Davis; 8/1 Fox.

Philip Grant
Guest editor

Mike Smithson returns tomorrow.

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