07 May 2006
What is the Blair strategy?
The dust has now settled on Friday's cabinet reshuffle and a few things are becoming clearer. The first is that the most likely reason why John Prescott has kept his cabinet seat is that he is also deputy leader of the Labour Party. Had Tony Blair dropped him then he might have resigned, thus precipitating a deputy leadership election. This is the last thing that Blair needs right now, so that might explain why 2 shags gets to keep his cabinet seat.
Secondly, his reshuffle can be seen as a two-fingered gesture to Gordon Brown to try his luck if he thinks he's tasty enough. It is unlikely that Brown will have the bottle to take Blair on directly, and it looks as if this is what Blair is relying on.
The problem that Blair has is that most of the party loath him. They signed a Devil's Bargain 12 years ago when this git was elected Labour leader. He promised them victory and they agreed to leave to one side all the reasons that Labour exists. Thus there has been no nationalisations, no higher taxes and no nods to anti-Europeanism and anti-Americanism. This cheesed off the party's members, many of whom resigned in protest, but it kept the parliamentary party in line. Now that bargain is starting to unravel as backbenchers circulate a letter that threatens a leadership challenge if Blair does not name his resignation day. To mount such a challenge the rebels need the signatures of 70 MPs. The matter would then be referred to the party conference in September. Assuming that the conference agrees, a leadership contest that could last about two months would then be held. The new leader would take office in November.
Clearly the party would be damaged by this six months' battle and that is what Blair seems to be relying on. That and the cowardice of Gordon Brown.