Sunday, April 02, 2006


How Tony could scoop the jackpot

Seems everyone is still speculating like mad on when Tony will go so I thought I might as well join in. Gaby Hinsliff in the Observer today looks at four scenarios when Blair might bow out:

i) May 2006- this might follow in the wake of a disastrous showing in the local elections. 70 MPs might decide to support a rival candidate and there is no shortage of likely stalking horses. Likelihood? 2/10 says the article with Brown to succeed.

ii) Autumn 2006-Spring 2007- the scenario here might be an announcement at the annual conference and a dignified departure followed by Gordon making his tenure in No 10 official. Likelihood? 7/10

iii) Summer 2008- this assumes some turn-around in Labour's fortunes and also that younger rivals might decide to stand against Brown.Likelihood? 3/10

iv) Summer 2009- this assumes senior figures might have become alarmed at the thought of a Brown premiership and turn back to Tony. Blair would have broken Thatcher's record by now but also maybe scuppered the Son of the Manse's chances of elevation. Likelihood? 1/10.

All this is good clean fun and means almost nothing. What might matter more is whether Blair is:

a) really keen to deny Brown the crown as if he is he can seriously hamper the latter's chances.

b)really keen on achieving those legacy issue prizes in the public services.

c) determined to tough it out and dare the party to risk damaging itself by an internal coup of the kind which toppled IDS. Such an act might keep Labour out of power for a decade and few Labour MPs would wish that. As long as Blair sits tight and refuses to panic, there is no reason why he should not bluff his enemies for years to come.

Also well in the frame are Macmillan's 'events'- who knows what might happen in the next year or so? A mega sleaze story reaching up to and into Downing St? A sudden death or illness? Something major in Iraq? An even bigger terrorist atrocity? We have no idea and each one of the scenarios mentioned might be as likely or unlikely as Hinsliff's scenarios covered above. But the 'nuclear option' scenario is still a wholesale rebellion by the party. If up to a half openly told him to go I cannot see any Prime Minister staying on, even this resourceful, resilient near political genius who has now led Labour for nearly twelve years.

A friend of mine, Paul Haigh, a very sophisticated betting -savvy racing journalist for the Racing Post- and no fan of Tony- suggests Blair has at his disposal the means to clear his massive mortgage in one fell swoop and sweep out of Downing St in a fashion of which Cherie would mightily approve- say, a brand new Aston Martin. The gambling scenario would look like this: Blair sets the date when he is to leave and punts all his savings that he will do so on that date. It would be a sure thing- though scarcely moral- but to paraphrase Peter Mandelson's infamous quotation: 'New Labour has always been intensely relaxed about being morally flexible where becoming filthy rich is concerned.'

I have never placed a bet in my life - but my understanding is that the moment an enormous sum is suddenly placed, all the odds change.

Are we to imagine Tony strolling into Ladbroke's with his jacket pockets bulging with fivers?
Dear Roy
This is Paul Haigh. No. It is not necessary for Tony to use cash. He or a mate could open an account on Betfair and quietly mop up the sums available to lay on the date he has already decided upon. Of course things could go pearshaped if his heart gave out or if his enemies decided to terminate him earlier.
I bow to the superior knowledge of someone who has lost more money - sorry! - who knows more about betting than anyone I know.

But I understood from the political bloggers who are very fond of betting that no matter what the source of the stakes, as soon as a lot of extra money goes on a particular bet, the bookies get the wind up and change the odds.

We await your magisterial judgement on this important matter.
North American online casino gamblers constitute 48 percent of the overall Online Casinos Extreme gambling business and research indicates that this might shrink to 36 percent by 2010.
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