Has Tony outsmarted them again?

Has Tony outsmarted them again?

    No apologies – it’s back to the Blair non-departure

With Tony Blair’s departure date comments in Australia continuing to cause ructions and Labour MPs calling for in that well-worn cliche a “smooth transition” I’ve returned to the political betting markets with a few hundred pounds to bet on the Prime Minister surviving. The 3/1 that’s available on him staying beyond the end of next year looks great value. There are several reasons:-

Labour party rules make a challenge to the leader much more difficult than those in the Tory or even Lib Dem parties where MPs alone have the power to force a vote of confidence. With Labour a conference decision is required and we are miles away from a situation where opponents could mount an effective move.

The loans affair seems to have peaked
and Labour is successfully turning the spotlight on the Tories who continue to refuse to disclose who their secret backers were.

The polls are looking good for Blair compared with the “crisis” in September 2004 which preceded his famous statement on the evening of the Hartlepool by-election about not going beyond a third term. Then YouGov had Labour getting a six-point boost if Brown took over. Most recent polls have had Brown doing worse although the last YouGov survey showed a one point gain if the Chancellor was in charge.

Blair still looks driven giving the appearance, at least, of wanting to complete his policy agenda. The latest talk on an elected House of Lords show the breath-taking speed that he is able to frame the debate and set the agenda – taking attention away from the loans issue at the same time.

Brown is reluctant to initiate a coup as we have seen time and time again. If the Chancellor resigned taking several cabinet minsters with him that could bring down Blair. But Brown is ultra-cautious and is not going to risk his plan to be Prime Minister by being seen to be the assassin.

Finally Tony Blair is just plain lucky. This was the sole reason why, last July, I put my money on the London Olympic bid being successful when Paris was the tight odds-on favourite. I made money then and I think I’ll make money on the latest bets.

The main worry must be Blair’s health and the overwhelming pressure of the job.

William Hill, meanwhile have tightened “Blair out lasting Thatcher” price from 9/1 at the weekend to 6/1. This is not online although I am assured you can place a bet by phone. November 2008 would be when he would have served longer than the Baroness. Looks like a nice punt.

Mike Smithson

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