The money goes on an early Blair departure

The money goes on an early Blair departure

    Probability of him being there after December 2007 now rated at 24%

For all our focus on the Tories in recent weeks the big question in UK politics is still the timing of Tony Blair’s departure from Number 10. Our chart illustates how punters are rating Blair’s chances of still being in the job after December 2007. This is based on best betting prices and underlines how damaging yesterday is being seen.

    After the first ever Commons defeat the speculation this morning is that Tony Blair might be pressured out early rather than later.

The political editor of the Times, Philip Webster, sums it up like this: “..the defeat laid bare the frailty of his Commons majority as he proposes controversial reforms to weaken local authority control of education, to introduce more private sector provision of healthcare and to crack down on incapacity benefits abuse. Within his own ranks Mr Blair, and anyone who follows him as prime minister, has to cope with around 30 “serial” rebels who can never be counted on to support him, except perhaps in a Commons confidence vote that would prompt a general election if he lost. Senior backbenchers told The Times that Mr Blair would need the support of the opposition parties on all three issues to push his reforms through. The overriding fear of the Labour whips was that, having tasted victory on an issue such as the terror laws, MPs will now be emboldened to defeat a weakened Prime Minister on the core policy areas.”

    No one can dispute that Tony Blair is a remarkable politician and he has an extraordinary ability to bounce back. But how serious is the current crisis? How many more Commons defeats can he cope with?

In the past we have been bullish about his prospects. Today we are less so but we are still to be convinced that the current prices on when he will go represent good value.

Mike Smithson

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