Thursday, November 03, 2005

Not quite lame, but this duck's certainly limping

One thing you can say about Tony Blair is that he is a fighter and not a quitter (or was that someone else?).

This isn't quite the end, but the past few days have certainly marked the beginning of the end. He's going to face a difficult few months over a number of issues: the terrorism bill, welfare reform, education reform and a number of other issues that would be classed as difficult under any circumstances. Those benches are increasingly populated by MPs ready to flex their muscles. Some are disillusioned with Tony, others know that they can't get promotion under this administration and hope for some morsels from the next leader, some are just part of the traditional 'awkward squad' who are happiest when opposing their own leadership, still others actually have principled objections to specific policies. All now find common cause in blocking some of the wilder ideas of Blair's legacy and I feel secure in predicting more reversals for the government.

To stretch another metaphor - the fat lady is starting her warm-up scales in the wings. If Tony has any sense, he'd be looking to set the process in motion to stand down in the spring, after the presidency of the EU has passed along. Perhaps most damagingly, comparisons are now being drawn between Tony Blair and John Major.

As I noted during the conference, the party is bigger than Blair - we need to regain the grass roots supporters who have drifted away over the years and who are crucial to winning elections. If we don't, then we are to blame for letting Tories like Mike Whitless and his cabinet of curiousities hang on to power in Birmingham and other councils across the country. The moment you become a liability, Tony, you owe it to us to make as dignified a withdrawal as you can. I'm sorry to say this, because you were the one who inspired me to actually join the party and take an active role, but the time has come to go.

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