Blair planning to quit as an MP as soon as he steps down – report
According to what is billed as an “exclusive” by the News of the World this morning Tony Blair is planning to step down as MP immediately after leaving Downing Street this summer.
The paper says “He has told members of his local Labour Party in the north-east he does not want to “get in the way on the back benches..He had privately agreed to stay out of domestic politics for five years to give Gordon Brown a clear run as Prime Minister.”
So within only a month or so of taking over at Number 10 Gordon would face a by election in what was a predominantly mining seat with a long Labour history. In May 2005 Blair held Sedgefield with 58.9% of the vote with the Tories on 14.4% and the Lib Dems on 11.9%. That campaign was dominated by the campaign of Reg Keys – the father of a British serviceman killed in the Iraq War who got more than 10% of the vote.
On the face of it this should be an easy Labour hold but then by elections can always be tricky for governing parties. Although the Tories were in second place last time it is the Lib Dem party which has strength locally. Sedgefield Council has 7 Lib Dem councillors, one Tory, eight others, and 32 Labour.
There are council elections there in May and this might give a further indication of Labour strengths and weaknesses.
So the Sedgefield by election looks set to be the first public test of the Brown government. Could this be an opportunity for the Lib Dems?
In Westminster by elections you should never underestimate Ming’s party however unfavourable the general election shares might seem – just look at Dunfermline and Bromley in 2006. A complicating factor could be Reg Keys. Might he stand again where he did so well last time to make further points about Iraq?
Whatever this has the potential to cause problems for Labour’s new leader.