Is time running out for Tony?

Is time running out for Tony?

    Should you be betting on an early departure?

With more calls for David Blunkett to resign and after a week which has seen one Cabinet row after another spilling into the public domain the chances of Tony Blair serving a full third term must be slightly lower. On top of the spats over education policy, smoking, and the reform the benefit system, the attack tbon Blunkett is particularly damaging – because he is seen as being so close to Blair.

    In addition there’s the possiblity that the troubles plaguing his partner in the Iraqi adventure, George Bush, might reopen issues in the UK and add to the pressure.

Ever since Blair made the announcement about his career intentions in September last year commentators have been predicting problems. It was almost inevitable that at some stage during the third term he would be seen as a lame duck. Following recent events that might be happening sooner rather than later.

Because his ministers know he is on the way out then, inevitably, he’s lost some of his authority. Who do aspiring Labour MPs try to impress – CampBlair or CampBrown? The answer is obvious. Add to that the ambition of the Chancellor and no obvious reluctance on his part to make trouble then these problems could continue.

On top of this there will be a new Leader of the Opposition in five weeks time. At the moment it is hard to predict how that other public school educated Oxonian, David Cameron, is going to perform. But, no doubt, it will not be long before someone points out that Cameron got a much better degree and if the opinion polls move one or two notches in the Tory direction then there will be more ammunition for the Blair dissenters.

    Until now we’ve been firmly of the view that Blair would be able to carry on as long as he wants and would find a means for a dignified exit on his own terms. Now we are not so sure.

There are a number of betting possibilities. The convention bookmakers have Blair leaving in 2006 at 4/1; 2007 at 7/4; 2008 at 2/1 and 2009 and beyond at 5/2. The Betfair exchange has a range of options in three month periods running to January 1 2008 and beyond where the price is 1.74/1.

Cantor Spreadfair has a spread of 135-165 weeks on the length of Blair’s third term starting last May.

Mike Smithson

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