How much has been changed by the statement?

How much has been changed by the statement?

Is it too late for a timetable?

You usually feel like a circling vulture when a politician announces at short notice that a “statement” is on its way. But Tony Blair’s announcement yesterday felt underwhelming in the circumstances. A month ago, say, the news that Blair would certainly be gone 12 months from now would probably have been enough to convince the rebels that they should more or less hold their tongues until then. This week’s catharsis, though, gives the situation a different feel.

Brownites and others in the party pressing Blair to go must now feel they have tasted blood and have the PM on the ropes. So are they going to be content to leave the knockout blow until next year? There must be many who are keen to get the thing finished now – particularly the Brown camp who, as Mike Smithson argued yesterday, will do well from an early departure by Blair.

The current market offers 16/1 against a September 2006 departure, 3.4/1 against Oct–Dec 2006, 3/1 against Jan–Mar 2006 with the favourite period, at 1.64/1, Apr–Jun 2007 (matching the 4 May departure that “sources close to Blair” have been spinning). I have a small bet on September 2006 and a larger one on October–December 2006.

For the succession, Brown is still favourite at 0.4/1. The best-priced outsider to my mind is Hilary Benn (41/1) and I’ve had a small flutter there.

Philip Grant
Guest editor

Mike Smithson returns full-time on 10th September.

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