From here, it looks as though the leadership will be a no-contest. I really don't see any alternative challenger from any wing of the party with sufficient weight to have a hope of stopping the man from No 11. I'm not even certain that anyone could muster enough MPs prepared to sign the death warrant for their own political careers to pose a serious challenge. Hence the unseemly rush to put a case for the deputy leadership, with almost the entire parliamentary party appearing to be assembling their individual campaigns. I'm undecided as to who will get the weight of the blog behind them - I know that they're all waiting to see.
But as for the top job, that will be Gordon's (barring any last minute disasters). He doesn't need Tony's support to win and he might benefit electorally from putting some clear blue (red?) water between him and the present administration. An endorsement might prove a long-lasting embarassment.
The only question is when Tony will go. I've been pondering this for a while and I suspect it could be a lot sooner than everyone thinks. Previously, I've commented that he would go when it suited and he would go when he wasn't under pressure. By the way, despite Guido's fervent masturbatory fantasies about seeing Blair in the dock over charges of selling honours, I'd be amazed if anyone ever faces charges on that. My prediction (the value of which may go down as well as up) is that Tony will announce his departure around the beginning of January 2007. Imagine my surprise when this forecast gained support from a little outburst on that centre of political debate, I'm A Nonentity, Get Me Out of Here from Lauren Booth.
'No - he's definitely not. In fact he will go in January. He made the decision so he is standing down in January.' Her words seemed to be a definite answer from a close family member to the question Gordon Brown has no doubt been asking himself for months. Then, almost sensing the shockwaves resonate around No 10, Lauren appeared to backpedal, adding: 'No, maybe March. What am I saying? Easter.'
If Tony is going to do the decent thing before the local elections and ensure that we have a leader in place, then he only has a short window in January to do the deed, otherwise the timescale for the elections wouldn't be manageable with an election campaign to follow.