OK, so he hasn’t quite admitted it yet, but time is surely running out for Tony. The Sun famously reports today that he will stand down as party leader on May 31 but it’s hard to see how he can limp on for that long.
Blair’s fortunes have been stunningly poor over the last few months, and the kind of media/parliamentary management tactics that have served him so well are now just causing him more problems.
Take for example last Friday. Byers had already done some softening up work as his outrider and then Blair went on the offensive and said that he would not be announcing his timetable for his departure.
But within a few days, the memo in which Gould et al lay out the strategy for Blair’s last days in office was leaked. Letters were flying around from everyone, calling on him to stand down. And now he has been forced to get an “aide” to tell the Sun it will be next year.
It is hard to see how this will work. The Scottish and Welsh Labour Parties are not going to be happy to see their very important elections used as an excuse for the general public to take one last swipe at Tony before the sunset.
The Brownites are champing at the bit, so much so that a team of supportive MPs are already allocated roles in a shadow leadership campaign, and we are aware of at least one Brownite minister who has already promised their staff to work full-time for the campaign.
This is not the usual suspects. In fact, it will present a conundrum for many on the hard left who had banked on having a longer period to crank up John McDonnell’s leadership campaign.
As John Pienaar said on Five Live today, it’s only going to take a run of bad polls, or other bad news, to tip him over the edge. The problem for Blair with Labour Conference this year is that all the policy documents are at “year zero”, meaning that they won’t be debated. So all there is to take up conference business time this year is set piece speeches, contemporary resolutions, and boring question and answer sessions. The whole Conference is going to be a series of plots on who can topple the Prime Minister fastest. That’s why it is so hard to see him making it much past Conference this time.