So Blair has set a 12-month time limit on remaining Labour Party leader although, as Guido Fawkes notes
, not necessarily as Prime Minister. Guido calls this the Aznar option, it's worth pointing out it was also the less-than-successful Gerhard Schröder option too.
Personally, I doubt Blair will last 12 months or anything like it. Until he goes, civil war will reign in the Labour Party. Unlike Blair, too many people in the Labour Party have an interest in not losing the next election for that to happen. Unless they're really, really stupid. And I don't think they are.
Will Gordon Brown simply be annointed as Labour leader? Even though I’m not a Labour supporter, I’m rather inclined to agree with what Charles Clarke said this morning
about Brown being able to stop last week's anti-Blair letters if he wanted to.
Brown will be a disaster as Labour leader. If Brown really had the capacity to be leader, he would have become so after the Granita restaurant, after Blair was clearly out of step with the country on the war, after Labour lost 50 seats at the General Election, etc., etc. He didn’t because he has no killer instinct and no real leadership skills. Brown likes to skulk in the corner and avoid difficult issues (so, what's your position on the War, Gordy?). You can't do that as Prime Minister. He might well become Labour leader, but he isn’t going to be a good one.
And the left will end up hating him - they forget that he’s co-creator of New Labour and just as pro-American as Blair. Cue more Labour infighting
The Blairites seem to be rallying round Alan Johnson or Millburn - these are not serious suggestions to anyone outside the No. 10 press office. In fact they just go to show how far detached from reality the Number 10 coterie are these days.
I mean, like, Alan Millburn? Be serious.
A second-rate minister with the charisma of a plastic toilet-roll holder and a tendency to bully, who’s so far to the right he even makes me nervous and, more importantly, will be incapable of shoring up a Labour grassroots more and more disillusioned with their natural party. Who is going to go out and canvass for that eejit to become Prime Minister. And the ground war might matter a lot in what could well be (note the hedging here) a low-turnout election with a lot of splintering to micro-parties.
This is the silliest idea in politics I’ve heard for a long time. If Millburn is leader, Labour will be crushed at the next General Election. Enough people know that for him not to become leader.
As for Alan Johnson - who are ye, Alan Johnson? John Major without the charisma. No chance.
John Reid obviously wants to be Prime Minister and his performance over the transatlantic hijack plot has sent his stock soaring. Just remember that shares can go up as well as down, he's also very right-wing, he's not an especially likeable person (it's useful to be liked when your party is falling to bits), and he's profoundly, irredeemably, Central Belt Scottish. There are a lot of questions to be answered here, but at the end of the day I can not only see "John Reid, Prime Minister" as a possibility, I can see him winning re-election in 2010.
However, my real tip for an outside bet worth keeping an eye on is Jack Straw. Straw has been around for a long time, is the ultimate internal hack, will know how to win votes among his parliamentary collegaues and the unions in Labour's complicated electoral college system, and he's redeemed himself with many of the left-wing rank and file members by getting sacked by Blair for being too pro-Palestinian. Watch Jack Straw.
What about the other parties? What about the Tories and their recovery?
The first point worth remembering is that in the latter days of Thatcher, Labour were more than 20% ahead in the polls
. And even poor Iain Duncan Smith had the odd good poll. Mid-terms polls when the government is tearing itself to bits are one thing, winning elections is another. Leading mid-term polls in these circumstances by 5-9% isn't only no big deal, it's nothing of consequence at all.
Cameron has restored the Tories’ credibility with the media, yes, but has he done it with the voters? It’s far too early to tell.
As for the LibDems, ditching Kennedy was right but Ming Campbell was a desperately bad choice. He was clearly out of his depth in the leadership campaign and he can't give an interview without making a stupid policy concession to a reporter. I can't believe that many people actually voted for him as leader after seeing his lame performances on TV. However, the LibDem front-bench is strong, probably stronger than it ever has been - the more the public see of Huhne, Clegg and Davey and the less of Campbell the better it will be for them.
Oh, and does anyone really think Britain's Middle East quagmire will be forgotten about by 2010? And even if it is, Vietnam may not have cost Nixon the 1968 or 72 election, but it combined with Watergate to cost Ford 76. The LibDems are the only party who agree with the public on the seminal foreign policy question of the day. They sort of need to remember that and say it a bit more often.
All this political confusion makes me think the next General Election will produce a hung parliament, which is what I've thought since about a year before the last one.
And the great addition to the unpredictability is the continued success of 4th parties in both the polls and local elections. The Greens, UKIP and BNP between them will easily poll 10% at the next general election if they contest enough seats. That, in effect, reduces the 'winning post' in a first-past-the-post electoral system and makes the whole thing very difficult to predict, although its net effect is probably to help Labour slightly.