Monday, May 08, 2006


'Limpet' Tony not anywhere near ready to go

Watching Blair's news conference today on the telly a number of things stood out.

a)TB repeated he was not going to contest the next election and made it clear he was, as promised going to provide a 'stable and orderly transition'. Nothing especially new here but some doubt had entered some minds about the latter, particularly the allowing of some 'establishment' time for his successor. At least he did say he would allow such time- not much of a concession but a straw for Gordon to clutch at. If one assumes a year's grace is normally thought wise and at least a year is required for a successor to 'establish' himself, that should put exit time at around spring 2008- later than most critics would wish but earlier than some- i.e. me- have feared.

b) He rejected the 'timetable' proposal so close to the heart of Blair's opponents on the grounds that it would 'paralyse' government if other parties knew the current PM was going. He could not be taken seriously if it were known he was going soon and suspected that his successor might do something else. There is something in this but to an extent, having said he's not standing next time has done this anyway, so a timetable would not change things dramatically, but might help Labour recover its position in time for the next election.

c) TB pointed out that he was only elected a year ago and feels he was given a personal mandate to govern which he would betray if he were to cut and run.

d)He refused to accept the analogy with Maggie and Major as the former had invested in a killer policy while the latter had run out of ideas and energy. His government, on the contrary, had loads of energy and things to do in the public services, energy and nuclear policy and so on.

e)He was also opposed to sections of the 'Blair must go' crowd as they had their own(Old Labour?) agenda which he believed was dangerous to the country and therefore must be resisted.

f) He airily dismissed those who said his policies were unpopular insisting that government was always controversial, citing the tuition fees row which at the time some had likened to to 'Tony's Poll Tax' but which had since been fully accepted even by other parties.

g) His line on Prezza was interesting. No mention of that 'private' matter but an enconium on the fat man's ability to chair difficult meetings and 'cut deals' across the field of government which stood comparision with Willie Whitelaw. Praise indeed.

All in all an energetic performance but I'm not sure he looked as confident as his words sounded: his eyes looked unsure I thought and his face gleamed with perspiration which only just managed to stay within. One emailer to the BBC's Daily Politics described him as looking 'desperate'. I note that one blog is accusing Brown of cowardice in not taking the fight more openly to Blair but this is a silly point: he has to preserve some kind of unity over which he can preside himself and seek to win a fourth term.

And already as Jackie Ashley says today: 'Labour is already well into a bitter Machiavellian, relentless and increasingly disorderly power struggle, which is now likely to get worse, not better.' This is good news for political junkies but bad news for those who support the Labour Party. Oh, and on that last point, our local candidate, Tom McGee, bucked the trend by beating the incumbent Tory councillor and providing Stockport Labour with its only gain of the last Thursday night. Well done Tom.

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