Can the Prime Minister survive 2006?
It was Peter Oborne in the Spectator earlier in the month who observed that David Cameron and Gordon Brown had an extraordinary shared strategic purpose – they both want Tony Blair out as soon as possible.
Brown’s desire to take what he regards as rightly his is probably the most documented political drama of modern times – and the longer he has to wait the greater the chance of something going wrong. Cameron’s desire to get Blair out of the way as soon as possible so he is facing Brown is only now becoming apparent.
Martin Kettle describes it like this is today’s Guardian: “Cameron has twin tactics for making the Conservatives electable. The first is to move the Tory party from the right to the centre. This week’s Guardian poll shows just how well that is going. ..the second tactic is equally simple. It is to get Blair out as soon as possible. Early days these may be, but those Cameronian embraces of Blair have a cold logic. The aim – aided and abetted by the Daily Telegraph’s rediscovered bias – is to divide Blair from his party in the hope that a Labour revolt will clear the Tories’ most formidable foe from their path. If Blair is forced out, Cameron will paint Labour as the enemy of change and reform. He will say that the Tories are the party that can achieve what Blair failed to do. And he may very well succeed. Because important parts of that message would be true.”
The Education Bill is the current big issue and the public expressions of unease by John Prescott show the challenge facing Blair. If he waters down the Bill he gets attacked by Cameron while if he doesn’t there’s the prospect of a big Labour rebellion.
Even if the Prime Minister skirts his way round this problem then other issues will emerge and he will face the same challenge again.
But nobody ever got rich underestimating Tony Blair’s ability to survive.
Time and time again the betting markets have been indicating an early departure but each time Blair has bounced back. We’ve had going into the Iraq War without UN sanction, the Hutton Inquiry and the rebellion earlier in the year on tuition fees and in each case Blair came out on top.
For those, like me, who get pleasure in viewing politics as a spectator sport 2006 looks very promising. Will Blair survive? The form books indicates that he will but there’s a new Opposition Leader to deal with.
For betting on when Blair will go click here.