The Corner

Blair Announces Departure Next Year

The knives are sticking out of Tony Blair’s back, but he’s still staggering on.  After the maneuverings and speculation of the past 48 hours, he has announced that he will leave office next year.  This is a partial victory for Gordon Brown, his finance minister and likely successor, who cut a deal with Blair twelve years ago that he would succeed him.  Yet it probably won’t be enough for Brown or the malcontents in Blair’s party.  They wanted him to announce that he would be gone before the local elections next May, which are likely to be disastrous for Labour.  He has not done that, which means the speculation and plotting will go on.  I’ve learned time and again that you underestimate Blair at your peril.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he has one last trick up his sleeve that will ensure Brown does not get the smooth succession he wants.  Iain Dale suggests that the crisis shows Blair learned nothing from the coup against Thatcher.  On the contrary, he may have learned that such events ruin the party even if defeat is accepted gracefully, so he might be determined to ensure that the Party cannot be successful without him…