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I think this could be the end... I better get txting again to that number of your's Tim to win the £500 WhenWillBlairGo!

The problem is that Blair can just about dismiss this as 7 non-entities throwing a strop. If a disgruntled Cabinet member decided to abandon ship then it would really be Game Over. At the moment it is merely a major headache, nothing fatal as yet!

Rats deserting the sinking ship.

I wonder if Brown will reward them, or whether disloyalty is political hari-kari.

Gets better and better doesn't it? I hope Blair fights on and on!

Sit back and enjoy the shoe, lads and lasses.

Only question is: do we actually want Blair to remain? If he tries to hang on till the middle of next year, there could be a bloodbath :-)

James Burdett is right. There is a momentum building right now but Blair can still hang on. If a cabinet minister resigns, then it's a different ballgame.

I did find Blair's 'I was going to fire him anyway' comment about Tom Watson to be rather stroppy and most amusing. He'll be lucky to survive the Conference at this right.

I just loved the following comment:

"Just minutes after Mr Watson announced his decision to quit, Mr Blair said he was going to sack him anyway".

Isn't it always the way, resignations spoil all of the fun of a good sacking.;)

Agreed that it would take a cabinet minister to make this really serious but the term pulling the rug from under you comes to mind with this lot resigning...

I'm just looking at who these six are PPS's for. We've got Primarolo, McNulty, Hutton, Woolas, Rammell and Ingram. I was curious to see whether these are Brown-ites or Blair-ites or whoever. Obviously Primarolo is one of Brown's closest allies. Hutton though I always thought was a Blair-ite. The others I couldn't readily pigeonhole although someone more knowledgeable may be able to. I wonder if there's anything to read into this aspect of it.

This is pathetic. If they want to play this game Blair should dissolve Parliament and call an election, then resign as Leader and let them sort themselves out.

This is a usurpation of Parliament - it is for a Confidence Motion to determine such thinfs not a party pressure group orchestrated by the BBC.

This kind of behaviour will destroy the foundations of parliamentary democracy, and the behaviour of the BBC suggests it should be stripped of its Royal Charter

Blair: "But to sign a round robin letter which was then leaked to the press was disloyal, discourteous and wrong."

Ho ho ho. You taught them well Mr Blair, you taught them well.

They might be Blairite or Brownite but they're all me-ite as all politicians have to be to some extent. They see only potential gain in position by attacking Blair. That in itself is a change.

We now have Prescott - about the most unpopular and corrupt politician of our age hanging on unable to be shifted despite the overwhelming disapproval of the whole country.

Blair too who has committed us to fight wars as servants of US war aims, which in Iraq may well have been ill-advised, seems able to hang on to power without the support of his own Party.

It shows that we are not living a democracy in any way now. Power-broking is the preserve of a hidden elite.

Prescott is setting up the regions, destroying the Counties on behalf of the EU. Blair is kept in power as he supports USA war aims. Neither has anything to do with British politics.

It's time for a earth-shattering revolution in which Murdoch, the EU, and Blair are all sent to hell in a handcart. Brown should go with them.

It is about time we hear what we should hear - that Blair has resigned!

Alas Not Yet.
Not Yet.......

Great a fight and loads of dissent.
Just like the good old days before Kinnock and Smith starting cleaning things up.
Lets hope and pray that NuLab disintegrate into factional in-fighting.

Might be interesting to know how marginal the 6PPS's seats are (or their bosses seats).
Rammell has a tiny majority

Interestingly this is impacting the money markets only slightly at the moment. The market abhors uncertainty, and there is plenty of uncertainty about now as a result of this. Any more of it will probably result in a moderate sell off of the pound as investors seek to move to more certain markets. That would then feed into the current feel of near panic that appears to have beset the Labour party. This situation is more than capable of spiralling out of control. Blair should be more aware of this than he seems at present and put a stop to it the only way he can, which is to go now.

Bill Rammell in Harlow won with a majority of 97 from Robert Halfon (CON). This seat is #2 on the Tory target list.

Dawn Primarolo in Bristol South won with a majority of 11,142 from Kay Bernard (LD). The Conservative candidate, Graham Hill, was a further 1,200ish behind. This is a safe Labour seat obviously, target 218 on the LD list and 267 on the CON list.

Phil Woolas in Oldham East and Saddleworth won with a 3,590 majority from Tony Dawson (LD). The Conservative candidate, Keith Chapman, was third, 10,000 behind Woolas. This is LD target 20, and CON target 216, so is probably safe but if the LDs had a good day they could take it.

Tony McNulty won Harrow East with a 4,730 majority from David Ashton (CON). His majority was slashed by 7,000 from 2001. This is CON target 87 and is probably out of reach.

Adam Ingram won East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow with a 14,723 majority from Douglas Edwards (SNP). Tony Lewis, the Conservative candidate, came in fourth and was miles and miles behind. This is SNP target 29 and CON target 339, so obviously very safe for Labour.

John Hutton won Barrow and Furness with a 6,037 majority from Bill Dorman (CON). This is CON target 163 and is safe for Labour.

As for the PPS's themselves.

David Wright won Telford with a 5,406 majority from Stella Kyriazis (CON). This is CON target 158 and probably safe for Labour although not totally unwinnable.

Mark Tami won Alyn and Deeside with a 8,378 majority from Lynne Hale (CON). This is CON target 220 and is safe for Labour.

Wayne David won Caerphilly with a 15,359 majority from Lindsey Whittle (Plaid). The Tory candidate, Stephen Watson, was a further 1,000 behind. This is PC target 18 and CON target 369.

Chris Mole won Ipswich with a majority of 5,332 from Paul West (CON). Mole actually upped his majority from 2001. This is CON target 125 so not out of the question with a good candidate.

Ian Lucas won Wrexham with a majority of 6,819 from Tom Rippeth (LD). Therese Coffey (CON) was a further 1,000 behind. This is CON target 248, PC target 19.

Khalid Mahmood won Birmingham Perry Barr with a majority 7,948 from Jon Hunt (LD). Naweed Khan (CON) was a further 3,800 behind. This is safe for Labour, 104 on the LD target list, and CON target 277.

Kristian - Although I'd be surprised if John Hutton did lose his seat, a 6,000 majority is not a figure that I would call "safe" for Labour.

I also do not see McNulty's seat as being out of reach for us.

As for the Labour Party - isn't it nice that after years of Tory leadership woes Labour has finally discovered how to have one as well, and so publicly too :-)

I don't know if they've had boundary changes in Hutton's constituency but the Tory vote has actually gone down at every election since 1997. The only real movement in 2005 was more votes going to the LibDems from Labour, but I'd imagine these would go back to Labour under a new leader (although of course some LAB or LD could go CON as well). It's a part of the country where the Tories did really badly in 2005, with neighbouring Westmoreland of course being lost to the LibDems (that was Tim Collins' seat) and there was a rare swing (2.2%) from CON to LAB in nearby Copeland as well. Even in Penrith, a safe Tory swing, there was a swing from CON to LD. More work needs to be done in that part of the world if the Tories are going to win the next election as the rural NW is the kind of region where we ought to be doing well.

If a disgruntled Cabinet member decided to abandon ship then it would really be Game Over.
Would depend who it was, not that many people take John Prescott seriously these days, one or two Cabinet ministers could go and Tony Blair could still continue, Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson after all were some of the most influential at the time, Gordon Brown isn't likely to resign because he has to be seen to be not putting his own ambition ahead of possible ructions in the party, Patricia Hewitt going on those grounds would rock the cabinet, as would Alastair Darling, Harriet Harman and Lord Levy also would cause a ruckus if they went on those grounds - there isn't a Michael Hestletine equivalent waiting in the wings.

When the likes of Sion Simon and Chris Bryant desert the Dear Leader, I am reminded of Francois Mitterand's discovery, about two minutes to midnight on the eve of the Liberation of Paris, that he had belonged to the Free French all those years and never realised it.....

As for McNulty, there was a 7% swing from LAB to CON in his seat last time around. Interestingly, neighbouring Harrow West is a big marginal that the Tories will absolutely have to win, with it being target 39. There's only a 2,000 majority for LAB (Gareth Thomas) in that seat. Indeed, on the other side of Harrow East is Hendon, Tory target 60. So that should be an important battleground in the next election. And Finchley, target 21 is also nearby.

So with good campaigning there we could do really well and maybe McNulty could be taken out as well. He certainly looks more vulnerable than Hutton, IMO.

BTW I'm cribbing my info from the BBC Election 2005 and Guardian Aristotle websites so I have no idea whether they take into account boundary changes etc etc.

I think it is great we are talking about which seats we can win. Some postive thoughts.

1 Under-Secretary of State and 5 PPS's is not really much, Tom Watson apparently was due to be sacked today anyway.

Absolutely Michael,I doubt those two have a principle to share between them.Simon was quite happy to take the money from the Telegraph for years and Bryant was mentioned in despatches by Paxman in his book on politicians as perhaps the most principle free zone in Parliament.

I was under the impression that Bryant was renowned for being one of the most sycophantic Blair-ite MPs. He used to be a member of the Conservative party, as it happens. Apparently he's been angling after a job for some time, hence his increased dissatisfaction with Blair. Apparently lurid stories about his private life have been problems for him in this regard.

Personally I don`t think it matters at all when he goes the big issue is who will replace him. I think it will probably be Brown but I wouldn`t be surprised if Reid makes a serious challenger.
This is where we have an advantage over them having a leader with charisma and charm who the public like. Both Brown and Reid have about as much charm as a rattle snake and I don`t think that the public will take to ever men as prime Minister very easily.

"This is pathetic. If they want to play this game Blair should dissolve Parliament and call an election, then resign as Leader and let them sort themselves out.

This is a usurpation of Parliament - it is for a Confidence Motion to determine".

TomTom @ 15.10: absolutely correct. A Brown government will be vastly different from a Blair government and the electorate should have an opportunity to vote on a Brown manifesto.
Obviously it would serve the tories' purposes to have Blair remain a while longer, but that is just seeking party advantage (and serving Blair's own ego); the best interests of the nation require strong government, not the present shambles.
The tories should try to get a recall of Parliament and put down a motion of no confidence.
The question is: are they ready yet themselves? Are the policies ready to put in a manifesto?

Except of course we would lose it David.Turkeys after all unlikely to vote for Christmas! It would also unite the Labour party as nothing else could.I think this is one ocassion when we should sit back and keep quiet.

They should place a Confidence Motion anyway to make the Labour Party look stupid

David Miliband has apparently told the Economist in an interview to be printed soon that Gordon Brown is far and away the best option to be the next Labour leader and that other cabinet ministers should refrain from standing against him (According to the PM programme anyway).

Didn't Labour produce a motion of no confidence on Maggie Thatcher's last day or something? And did it not backfire horribly?

It is beginning to have the feel of November 1990 but the parliamentary recess may help Blair. There is a growing momentum in the press.

They should place a Confidence Motion anyway to make the Labour Party look stupid
There's no point - all that will happen is that the Labour MP's will all vote against a motion of no confidence and probably there will be some abstentions among members of smaller parties and maybe even the odd one voting with the government, if they really want to cause embarrasement in the House of Commons the way would be an Early Day Motion calling for Tony Blair to stand down or outline a timetable for his departure and there would be Labour MP's who would put their names to it.

TomTom/David Belchamber

I completely disagree. This is not a usurpation of Parliament any more than Margaret Thatcher's departure (which was not forced by a confidence motion and did not trigger a General Election despite the fact that John Major's policies were somewhat different). The PM is appointed by the Queen. She selects whoever is most likely to gain majority support in the Commons - in most situations that is the leader of the largest party. Parliament has no direct role in selecting the PM nor, as far as I am aware, is there any mechanism by which Parliament can dismiss the PM.

If Blair decides he can no longer command a Commons majority, he will have to resign. It is then up to the Queen to decide who to call but convention dictates that she would select the next leader of the Labour party.

Blair could decide to call a General Election and then resign the leadership of the Labour Party but that's pretty unlikely. The new leader could decide to call a snap election in order to get a mandate but that is his/her decision.

A motion of No Confidence could force a General Election but the most likely effect is to unite Labour - not what we want at the moment. As Kristian points out, Labour tabled a confidence motion around the time of Margaret Thatcher's resignation. The result was to unite the Conservative party and present Margaret Thatcher with the opportunity for one of her most memorable performances including the famous aside, "I am enjoying this". We don't want to help Labour or Blair in this way.

Motion of no confidence has to be a no-no, as it would be guaranteed to let Blair off the hook. An EDM might cause issues but again Labour would probably shy away from it. Maybe a debate on foreign policy in the Middle East might work in drawing out the rebels. The problem is that the rebels are likely to smell the sulphur from the abyss and pull back leaving Blair in post but with virtually no credibility left. I think for everyone concerned the Cabinet need to have a gentlemanly word with Tony and if that fails to make him see sense then one or two of them need to jump ship. My money would be on Straw as a likely candidate for the fall guy. He certainly has reason to want to!!

McNulty is toast. Harrow East is now safe Con after boundary changes

Any Tory involvement in trying to speed Blair's departure is going to backfire. The one group of people Blair's enemies in the Labour party hate more than Blair and his supporters, are the Tories. We should just stand back and let them destroy themselves. We should distance ourselves from it, say that this is 'an internal matter for the Labour party' and that's it. There is no way the Conservatives can gain from trying to butt its' nose in.

"Except of course we would lose it David.Turkeys after all unlikely to vote for Christmas!"

You have a good point, Malcolm @ 17.22 but it cannot be good for the nation to have a rudderless government for much longer.
To put down a vote of no confidence at this point when so many Labour MPs are calling for Blair to stand down and all the opposition parties are clamouring for Blair to go might seriously embarrass him, even if it failed. The important thing though is for the tories to take this opportunity to put maximum pressure on Blair.

My money would be on Straw as a likely candidate for the fall guy.
Jack Straw was on the radio praising Tony Blair and saying that Tony Blair was sticking to what he had said and that those critical of his not giving a timetable should be quiet and leave him to go in his own time.

Could bloggers please stop recalling November 1990. You're preventing me from fully enjoying this moment as much as I should!

David Miliband has apparently told the Economist in an interview
Correction, I misremembered, it was the New Statesman apparently:
Brown allies urged to 'back off'

Today is an historic day. Ive never lived through a British government collapse before so this is all so exciting. Conference season is going to be so much fun. I cant wait. The Tories must keep the pressure on those key fault lines that Clarke identified.

We should be driving a stake through the Government over the LRRB in particular. No offence to Oliver Heald but Id prefer to see Davis cover that when it comes back to the Commons. We need to happy slap Labour with its most controversial Bills. We need our most bloodthirsty Tories on that Bill. Trident similarly. perhaps Tridents replacement should be debated on after the recess? That will definitely split the Party and with Blair blatantly dithering over that...

Its time for the Tories to start shoving Labour around on the key dividing lines. Divide and Conquer, a strategy so beautiful in its simplicity.

Is it just me....or do all of these conspirator mugshots look like Bader Mieinhof members ?

James M

Isn't it fun. Agree with you. We need Dave the Distainful at PMQs, concerned about the dirty tricks on the opposing benches. Then Darstardly David seeing if he can get another Home Sectratary in deep water, then the Bulldog Backbenchers who worry a particular issue to death. The rest can just sit back and enjoy.

In part this is a win for DCs strategy - his support of Education Bill and other Blairite initiatives helped drive the wedge in deeper between party & leader. The suport from key bulldogs in exposing Home Office, Prescott & other embarassments fitted well. Then Blair's hubris was exposed - he thought he could ignore large parts of his party because he was clever enough to use DC when he wanted.

Trident similarly. perhaps Tridents replacement should be debated on after the recess? That will definitely split the Party and with Blair blatantly dithering over that...
Playing party politics with the national defences is a very bad idea, the drive should be for a British replacement for Trident and work on developing Hafnium Bombs\warheads that can be used at a far wider range of yields and because they cause virtually no fallout and only a sudden initial Gamma Ray burst can be considered and used as conventional weapons with the added benefits that they are far smaller and have yields of anything from a grenade up to that of the largest Hydrogen Bombs tested and beyond - they are only theoretical at the moment but the Pentagon is working on them and may well not share the technology.

Then if the issue offends some in the Labour Party and causes a ruckus then that is their loss.

his support of Education Bill and other Blairite initiatives helped drive the wedge in deeper between party & leader.
Actually the only people dismayed seemed to have been the Labour leadership, Labour backbenchers thought it was a Conservative measure anyway and if the Conservative Party had opposed it would just have said that they were politicking, Labour's leadership would have been much more shaken if they had lost the Education Bill - Tony Blair might well have resigned if that had happened.

Yet Another Anon

We wanted a slow painful decline breaking the Labour Party not a quick death. DC helped achieve that - look back in archives around time this was being discussed and that's what a number of us were posting; that supporting Blair against his backbenchers was the effective policy. Brown would have stepped up and had 3-4 years of being PM without blood on his hands. Now it's either a coup or a drawn out leadership election as the big beasts jostle for power.

If I can be a bit serious - another three British soldiers died in Afghanistan today. I would prefer Cameron to ignore the Blair succession drama and concentrate on holding this Government to account on mission creep, resources and purpose regarding our troops in both Afghanistan & Iraq.

Blair is more concerned about his Farewell Tour & Legacy, Brown hasn't given any indication (other than holding the purse strings tightly closed), Reid misled us, Browne is useless. We cannot continue the weekly PMQ ritual of condolences unless there is clarity of why these men are dying in our country's forces.

An Opposition should support our forces when they are put in danger but this doesn't mean we cannot criticise the Government harshly if necessary.

Can either party afford (£) an early election?

that supporting Blair against his backbenchers was the effective policy.
It's debateable whether it makes any difference at all politically - if Tony Blair had lost he probably would have brought along another version with amendments, maybe he would have considered it the end for his ambitions and gone immediately, Gordon Brown would have taken over but given he's actually been virtually as powerful as Tony Blair already right from the start then actually policy changes would have been slight and gradual, a lot of traditional Labour supporters are probably going to get a shock when actually some of the zeal of the Labour administration probably actually intensifies under Gordon Brown - things like raising the NHS spending to 8% of GDP and putting the rises in pensions above the rate of inflation were very much forced through by Tony Blair with Gordon Brown sceptical, on the European Project Gordon Brown's views are rather more like those of past Labour Prime Ministers than the Euro-fanatic Tony Blair - if Gordon Brown takes over some time in the next year or even two he is probably going to have to deal with mid term difficulties, it maybe though that the Labour turnout in Local Elections would strengthen, I expect changes probably to be much more gradual than most people expect.

John Major was in such a poor position after succeeding Thatcher that he had to turn Maastricht into a Confidence Motion.

If Labour MPs voted to support a Govt 8 of them had just resigned from it was be hilarious.

Brown does appear to be something of a Euro-sceptic and if the Labour Party moves to take a more robust view on Europe that could pose a challenge to us.

Personally I want to see the party move to a withdrawal position. It would be a manoeuvre which would outflank Brown and UKIP at a single stroke.

As for Major - and I had little enough time for him - we should never forget how a mere change of leader transformed the fortunes of the Tory Party after the total shambles and appalling polls that attended the demise of Thatcher.

As I've posted elsewhere, there is far too much immature euphoria around at the moment. Soon Blair will be gone and we will have lost our best asset. Is that really worth cheering about?

Yes because of the power struggle that will ensue. IF Blair is forced out of office he'll do everything in his power to cause as much trouble for Brown as possible. Brown in response will fire back. Complete civil war is the result. It wouldnt matter who was in charge, they would be undermined by internal strife.

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