What’s behind the “Blair going in mid 2007” stories

What’s behind the “Blair going in mid 2007” stories

    Punters pile on mid-2007 exit following Telegraph report

The never ending saga on the biggest question in UK politics took another turn over the weekend with reports from Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, that Tony plans to hand over to Gordon in “next summer”.

In his piece Hennessy writes: “..Mr Blair faces many pitfalls between now and then, however, notably over the battle to get his controversial package of school reforms into law in the face of opposition from rebel Labour MPs. In May, Labour is expected to take a political battering in the local elections, another event which could increase calls for his early departure. Sources close to Mr Brown accepted that a timetable of 18 months was possible, although they scotched claims of a new “deal” between the men. Those closest to Mr Blair say a departure date in the late summer of 2007 will allow him to claim a significant legacy of reform as long as his schools Bill passes successfully into law…”

Apart the open ended “after December 31 2007” on the “When will Blair go” market the option of July – September has become favourite at 4.2/1. The Spreadfair “weeks of Blair’s third term” spread market is now at 108-118 weeks – taking it to July-Seprember 2007.

Clearly this speculation is going to run and run until it actually happens. But is it being uncharitable to suggest that Tony Blair only dangles the prospect of him going in front of his party when he is in trouble?

    Is the implicit “deal” here to rebel back-benchers – don’t rock the boat over the flag-ship school reforms and you get a leaving date?

It will be recalled that the original statement that he would go during this term was made at the end of the party conference in September 2004 while voting was still taking place in the Hartlepool by-election. There was just a chance then that Labour could lose the seat and I saw this as clever news management.

As for the betting I still think he’ll be there on January 1 2008 – but I’ve closed down my positions.

Lib Dem members’ poll. Our understanding is that party members who have been asked to take part in the YouGov leadership survey have to return them by 10am this morning. Given the pollster’s success with similar Tory member polls the results of this survey will have a big impact on the betting.

Mike Smithson

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