Days, weeks or months?

Days, weeks or months?

Does Tony actually want to hold on?

You all read the news, but to state the obvious, it’s been a bad couple of days for Tony Blair. The string of resignations, even if all but one were Parliamentary Private Secretaries (not even members of the government, strictly speaking) hasn’t robbed the government of its most respected figures, but gives a pretty good impression of chaos.

Blair’s allies plead for “a dignified departure”, which seems to mean setting a date sometime next year (perhaps the 26 July rumoured by the Sun and Sky News, with the Labour leadership contest being initiated on 31 May). But looking at the present state of things, what would be dignified about hanging on till then, with everyone in Britain’s primary impression of the government being one of risible disarray? Hardly a departure in a blaze of glory.

It seems that (even more so than when I made the point in Monday’s piece) Blair will realise that going sooner is actually the lesser of two evils from the point of view of his personal legacy.

The Betfair market (which refers to Blair leaving the Labour leadership, not the premiership) currently has Apr-Jun 2007 as favourite (1.94/1) – probably on the strength of the Sun rumour – followed by Oct-Dec 2006 (where my money is: 3.1/1) and Jan-Mar 2007 (3.6/1). The two earlier slots here might still provide some value.

What for the other markets? As Mike pointed out yesterday, the earlier the changeover, the better Gordon Brown’s chances of being the successor. He’s currently at 0.47/1 – perhaps on the generous side of fair value, but a market I haven’t indulged in yet.

Philip Grant
Guest editor

Mike Smithson returns on 10th September.

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