The Economist argues that Tony Blair should stand down as soon as possible. It’s difficult to disagree because, until he does, British politics is in stasis. Having already pledged to step aside before the next election, the uncertainty about when and how this will happen overhangs every government decision. Blair’s popularity within his own party has probably never been lower and there are parallels with Maggie Thatcher in 1990: weakened by the hated poll tax, struggling to hold her authority over the party and no longer seen as a vote winner, it didn’t take long for the Conservatives to give her the boot. Blair has Iraq instead of the poll tax, he’s struggling to push through his reforms (the Education and Inspections Bill only passed through the Commons last week because the Conservatives backed it) and now faces, for the first time in his tenure as leader, a credible and popular opponent in David Cameron (who in many ways is a mirror of Blair ten years ago). Add to that an increasing number of sleaze allegations and it feels very much like this is a government in need of serious renewal.
Of course, Gordon Brown won’t be instigating anything. As the inevitable incumbent, the last thing he wants is a civil war. But he must be itching to finally take the helm and go head to head with Cameron, as he will have to in the next election. In the meantime, he’ll just have to sit there with ever decreasing patience, fuming in his inimitable Presbyterian way.
Tone has held the reins for just under nine years now: that is quite long enough for anyone to remain leader (I would personally prefer fixed term governments, with a maximum of eight years for any one person, like they have in the US). He should quit while he’s still (just about) ahead, because at this point the only way is down.