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Why the reluctance to burst the Blair bubble?

March 26th, 2006

blair bubble.jpg

    Are Labour MPs fearful about Gordon?

The Tory party, as in the poster above, might have called on the electorate to “burst Blair’s bubble” in the 2001 General Election campaign but they lost and lost again. Now in spite of the appalling headlines there does not seem much Labour pressure for him to go.

From this distance the Tory strategy behind the poster looks questionable. For all it did was to highlight what has proved to be one of Labour’s greatest electoral assets – Tony Blair.

So after a week which has seen the continuing “loans for peerages” row and Gordon Brown’s tenth budget Blair is still at number 10 Downing Street apparently with the intention of doing what he said he would – serving a full third term.

    After sitting on the fence on the issue of Blair’s departure I’ve now started putting money on him hanging on until the end of next year. The current prices have this at about 3/1.

Amongst all the political coverage in the Sunday papers the best piece on this is by Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer. In it he argues that the reasons Cabinet and Parliamentary colleagues have not moved against Blair are because of real fears about “…the temperament and style of a Brown premiership.”

Rawnsley goes on “….. He has run the Treasury as a very tight regime. If he has rarely deigned to tell the Prime Minister what was going to be in his budgets, the cabinet is understandably terrified about how it might be treated by a Brown-led Downing Street..There has been a lot of personal rule from Tony Blair’s sofa under the present incumbent. But there has at least been one contesting pole of power to Number 10. That has been the Treasury. There would be no check and balance to Prime Minister Brown because there would no longer be a Chancellor Brown..You can run the Treasury by concentrating on one big project at a time. You can also disappear from view when it is politically convenient. Tax credits go wrong and Gordon Brown pushes his subordinates towards the sound of gunfire. His response to the spending crisis in the health service is simply not to talk about it..A Prime Minister cannot go into denial. He has to be ever-visible as he has to have the capacity to juggle a multitude of balls at the same time. ‘Can Gordon learn to delegate?’ asks one of his colleagues. You have to doubt that after listening to another budget speech which treated the rest of the cabinet as if they were his satraps.”

Things could get worse in the weeks ahead. The May local elections could go badly wrong for Labour but as Sean Fear pointed out on Friday expectations are so low for the party that they could shrug off almost any outcome.

The loans issue continues to rumble and the effort to divert attention to the Tory loans is having only a limited effect. Labour’s problem is that it is the party of power and all the patronage is with the Prime Minister. Thus it’s much harder to smear the motivation of Tory lenders and donors.

William Hill have emailed me about bets on Blair outlasting Margaret Thatcher – which he’ll do if he’s still there in November 2008. You can get 8/1 on this possibility although I cannot find this price online. If it was I’d put a bit on.

Mike Smithson






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