Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Blair: Should he(and will he) Stay or Should he go Go?

When Blair will go is proving just as difficult a question to answer as should he go. On the latter question an emergent consensus on the left is that he is a busted flush. After Iraq and those absent casus belli, not much has gone right really. There's been the Terror Bill and the illiberal ID Cards proposals, Ruth Kelly and paedophiles in schools; Tessa, blithely unaware her hubby has just been gifted a third of a million quid; the division on the Education Bill which was so unpopular with Labour MPs it required Conservative votes to get through; and now the unhealthily close relationship which loans to the party before the last election seem to have with the disbursement of medals, knighthoods and peerages. I'm fairly sure that is why The Guadian, keeper of the leftwing conscience, called for Blair to step down yesterday. According to the bookies odds on Blair going by June have halved from 8-1 to 4-1 and many have been calling Brown's budget announced today, his last.

But hold on. In my view the nation's doyen of political columnists, Simon Jenkins- who earned his knighthood most assuredly- has questioned the judgement of the paper which currently pays his wages. He points out Blair has said he will serve 'a full third term' and goes on to suggest that he should. He casts doubt on Brown's ability to win a popular following despite his skilful management of the economy: 'The recent desperate attempt to beathe warmth into his public image has shown how difficult this task is.' He suggests three more years in which Blair- still young, fit and at the height of his powers- cuts the Etonian down to size will suit Brown's interests better than Tony departing the stage just yet.

From Blair himself we hear not a peep of his real intentions- which may anyway change regularly as far as we know- but I was fascinated to read that Charles Clark said yesterday that Blair will stay for until summer 2008. Maybe he's going for the Maggie Thatcher's record of eleven and a half years. What is certain is that trying to get to get rid of him if he does not want to go will be bloody indeed and not an option Labour can readily contemplate. Awful as it might seem for Blair haters(including Gordon Brown), they might have to learn to live him for another two or even three years.

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