Sooner or later?

Sooner or later?

Would Blair prefer a quick exit to a humiliating timetable?

After some relatively eclectic topics last week, let’s return to a favourite of this site and to British political coverage as a whole: the succession to Tony Blair. As usual, Blair is being asked to set a timetable for his departure, and refusing to, to the general unhappiness of Brownites and the Labour left; neither the TUC or the Labour conference is likely to give him a smooth ride. The difference this time is that the discontent seems to be spreading much more broadly within the party, with an anonymous rebel (reader beware) claiming that there may now be enough MPs willing to back a leadership challenge.

The expectation now appears to be that Blair will be forced to set a timetable that sees him depart at some point in 2007 (currently priced at 4/7): possibly before the Welsh assembly, Scottish parliament and local government elections in May and probably before the Labour conference in September.

But it is somehow hard to imagine Blair patiently following a process that sees him hold onto office until some thrashed-out deadline, seen by all as a lame duck who can be safely ignored until he’s gone. Doesn’t it seem more plausible that once he decides it’s all over, he’ll make a very quick exit?

Thinking along these lines, it looks pretty attractive to follow Mike Smithson’s tip of last month and back an October–December 2006 departure at 6.6/1.

Philip Grant
Guest editor

Mike Smithson returns on 10th September.

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