Monday, May 01, 2006

Pressure on Blair Grows

This morning's Guardian reports that "senior Cabinet Ministers" want Blair to name the date. They include "normally loyal Cabinet Ministers", although no names are given (by my calculation, if Prescott and Clarke go, as seems likely, only about a third of the Cabinet are hard-core Blairites, and one or two of those - the belligerent Reid, for example - are pragmatic enough to jump ship). So who are these "senior Cabinet Ministers"? I suspect it is not the Balirite core (Reid, Hoon, Hewitt, Jowell, etc). Could it be Straw or Hain? A reshuffle could see Ed Balls, one of the Milibands, and/or Alexander Douglas promoted to Cabinet rank: but some of these are Brownites and even the broadly Blairite David Miliband has kept his options open. If Blair passes these over in order to promote some Blairite clones this would surely mean open warfare - as distinct from the guerrilla warfare now ongoing - with Brown (with Prescott the peacemaker gone). If Blair announces he will go in mid-2007 this could stave-off a leadership challenge later this year (the Guardian reports that what is left of the left in the parliamentary party have been planning for months to stand a "stalking horse" against Blair later this year); but such a relatively early departure date would leave him a lame-duck PM. The uber-Blairites want to prevent Brown inheriting the Leadership, but they are also running out of options so far as a credible leadership candidates are concerned: Milburn and Reid seem to be the only ones left, and I don't think either stands a chance against Brown. If there is a leadeship challenge a "compromise" (non-Blairite, non-Brownite) candidate could win the crown (Hain?). Brown cannot be assured of the trade union vote in the electoral college (given his well-known devotion to PFI). But I still think Brown is by far Blair's most likely successor. All this is Kremlinology of course: we will have to wait and see. The latest round-up of the opinion polls
here show Labour slipping.


Blogger skipper said...

Did you read Roy Hattersley in Guardian today suggesting that now Blair HAS to stay until this crisis subsides or there won't be anything for Gordon to inherit. Not sure I followed all his reasoning. But I agree the moment when Blair is faced by 'the men in flat caps', representing the strong views of the PLP may not be too far away- shortly after the local election results in fact.

4:45 pm  
Blogger politaholic said...

Yes, Skipper, I saw the Hattersley article. His argument seems to be that Blair should wait until he can hand over a Government in pretty good nick, rather than one laid low by successive scandals. Fat chance of that. I also saw this, on the same day, by Jackie Ashley, also in the Guardian: "We know that a group of left-wingers will use the antcipated electoral hammering in the local elections this week to try to force Blair out. A stalking-horse challenger, such as Michael Meacher or Lynne Jones, would put pressure on Blair to make clear his departure date. Less widely known is that a group of more moderate Labour MP's are also starting to organise themselves, with a view to going public later this summer...". Incidentally, I didn't know the Labour Party still had men in flat caps - nowadays isn't it all cianti and avocado-dip (and whatever headgear goes with that)?

9:17 am  

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