View from the House

On present evidence, then, it would take a psephological earthquake to unseat Blair. Not only would there have to be an unprecedented swing from May 1997, a lot of people would have to do a lot of switching during the next few months – just when the fruits of Gordon Brown’s parsimony in the first two years of the government are meant to come to harvest in the form of new wards, more teachers and the hand-outs left, right and centre he can certainly now afford.

Yet a watershed has now been crossed in Tony Blair’s leadership. He never had a warm relationship with his party, even that bit of sympathetic to his ends, but it is now icy cold. MPs who will never vote for Andrew Mckinlay, who is challenging Clive Soley for the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Labour Party, never the less welcome his bid.

They want to shake up Number 10 and stir it (him)out of the complacency that led the ill-fated Women’s Institute speech. Much is being made of a phrase used by Tony Wright MP, chairman of the Commons public administration committee. ‘I’m Blairite,’ he said in an article in the New Statesman, ‘but is Blair?’

What he meant was that the original Blair agenda of modernisation and reform had an amount of intellectual consistency to it but the prime minister’s recent utterances were vapid and the government seems directionless.

He is surrounded, even the loyal of the loyal are saying, with yes-people who have lost contact with the Labour party at large and instead rely on print-outs from focus groups.

Only a clean-out of the bunker will do, including the symbolic decapitation of Alastair Campbell. A heretical suggestion is whispered. Might Blairism be better conducted by somebody other than Tony Blair?

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