Could Blair be to Gordon what Heath was to Maggie?
Tony Blair has been such a dominating figure in British politics for so long that it’s hard imagining what things are going to be like when he and Cherie have moved to Connaught Square and Gordon, assuming it is he, is the undisputed master at Number 10.
Heath was still in his 50s when Maggie beat him in the 1975 leadership election and throughout her years he remained a vocal and irritating critic as she sought to take her party in a different ideological direction. Maggie tried to get him out of the way after the 1979 election victory by offering him the job of UK ambassador in Washington. Heath refused.
Blair has made it clear that he won’t be remaining as an MP after the next General Election so that solves one problem for Brown at least. But it’s hard to imagine Tony keeping quiet if Gordon “goes off message” or does things which undermine what he tried to achieve.
For one thing’s very likely- as soon as Blair announces his departure his reputation will soar. There will be so much relief in so many quarters that everybody will be ready to say nice things about him.
Just look at the way that the ghost of Margaret Thatcher continues to dominate the Tory party and whoever happens to be its leader. Her period in office was time they can look back to when things were good for the party and when they won election after election. Will the same be the case with Tony – also a three times election winner?
Given the troubled nature of their relationship over the past decade are things going to be more peaceful between them when Gordon has got his wish and Tony is just another ex-Premier? Quite simply could Blair cause trouble for Brown after “the great transition”?
The precedent of Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher is not a good one for Gordon. For throughout the Thatcher years her predecessor as Tory leader was an ever-present irritant – which was made worse by his decision to continue as an MP.
Maybe it is the fear of what Tony would be like that has prevented Gordon from forcing the issue of the succession. If Tony is not allowed to go in his own time and on his own terms then he could cause trouble.
There’s been a lot of speculation about the trouble Gordon could cause if he failed to get the job. What about the trouble that Blair could create if he’s not given a dignified exit? And could the shadow of Blair have an impact on the next General Election?