Is Charles Clarke the man to tell Blair to go?

Is Charles Clarke the man to tell Blair to go?


    Should the “men in grey suits do their duty”?

After all the pressure on Tony Blair over the “loans for honours” row yesterday’s budget must have felt like a welcome respite. But this morning the left-wing magazine, the New Statesmen, joins the growing list of newspapers and magazines which are calling for an early Tony Blair departure.

This is not yet available online but according to Newsnight it says that “the men in grey suits must do their duty” – a suggestion that senior party members should take him aside and suggest that for the good of the party he should make way for a successor.

    The programme also says that in an article in the magazine the former Young Liberal Leader, Peter Hain, suggests that the only person who is in a position to tell the Prime Minister to go is the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke.

The problem with this is that Clarke has been a long-standing opponent of Gordon Brown and it’s questionable whether he would make such a move to help the Chancellor. Clarke has also been talked of as a candidate himself though he has recently said that he would back Brown.

An intriguing thought is that if Clarke became the assassin he could put himself into contention. The Home Secretary would have done what others, including Brown, had not had the stomach for and this could be rewarded.

Everything depends on whether “the loans for honours” row burns itself out or will there be further revelations? The Sunday papers could be interesting.

On the markets the Blair’s departure date betting is After January 1 2008 3.2/1: April-June 2006 5.8/1: Oct-Dec 2006 6.6/1: Jul-Sep 2006 4.4/1. So of the 2006 departure periods July-September is favourite.

The Budget has led to no changes in the Next Labour Leader betting. Brown 0.34/1. Miliband 10/1 Johnson 22/1 Milburn 25/1 Benn 25/1 Clarke 37/1

It is very hard to see anybody but Brown doing it and as soon as there’s a whiff of Blair going that 0.34/1 price will tighten considerably. Blair is a remarkable survivor and that 3.2/! on him staying at Number 10 for another 21 months might start to be tempting. I cannot read this and am keeping my money in my pocket.

Mike Smithson

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