Could announcing a July date screw Gordon?

Could announcing a July date screw Gordon?

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    Isn’t this how Michael Howard stopped David Davis?

From my holiday apartment near Nice where my sole source of news for nearly a fortnight has been the internet on my pda phone I accept that I might be reading Labour’s leadership developments completely wrongly. But would it really help Gordon if Blair announced a fixed time-table for a July 2007 departure?

What that would do, surely, is fire the starting pistol on a ten month leadership campaign which could see other challengers emerge?

What’s in Gordon’s interest is a quick announcement with it all being over in six weeks. This would make it far harder for other candidates to develop their campaigns and an election with just a token opponent would be far more likely.

    It’s long been my view that the real problem for Gordon is that media people hate foregone conclusions. What could be better in journalistic terms than for somebody to emerge to mount a serious challenge?

Would David Cameron have been elected Tory leader if Michael Howard had gone immediately after the 2005 election? I doubt it. The contest would have been David Davis against Ken Clarke with Davis probably ending up the winner.

Instead Howard re-shuffled his front bench team giving prominent roles to likely contenders and announced that he would be gone by the end of 2005. It was this “leg up” that was crucial to Cameron’s success.

What we will see during a prolonged Labour campaign are many more of the “What if XX…was leader” polls. Gordon needs to be within a point or two of any challenger to be safe. If he’snot then he might be in danger.

The prospect of this prolonged drama being over within nine months has seen the Brown betting price tighten. The Blair departure date favourite is now the third quarter of next year. I still think that there’s just a chance that it could be earlier.

Mike Smithson. Back from holiday on September 10th.

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