So lets move on to the post election battles. Will the Labour left move against Blair? Will Howard hang on? Guido hears lots of gossip along the lines that with a much weakened majority, the Labour left will be emboldened to try and force Blair’s resignation or early retirement. Guido can’t see it happening without him putting up a fight, he wants to outdo Thatcher in longevity, possibly to have a shot at becoming EU President after dragging Britain into the euro. Guido reckons that health and majority allowing, Blair will do an Aznar – near the end of his term he’ll resign as party leader whilst remaining as PM. Labour will anoint its chosen one to lead the PLP, and to fight the following election.
This assumes a workable majority, there is the LibDem wet-dream of Blair having to rely on their votes to contemplate. That would alter the dynamics and all bets would be off.
The Tories are already starting to jockey for position; David Davis is probably the front runner in the parliamentary party, the over-rated Dr Fox looks vain enough to throw his hat in the ring as well, Letwin might stand despite being a disaster with the voters, the younger Notting Hill set are not yet ready, some talk that Alan Duncan might throw his cap in the ring as well on behalf of the libertarian wing. In a situation like this, who knows? Hague might be drafted back by a repentant parliamentary party that in some quarters regrets dispensing with him. If Howard pulls the Tories above 200 seats its possible he will hold on as a caretaker leader for a year or two hoping to make way for his protege, David Cameron. Guido hears the same piece of gossip over and over again about a David Davis’ skeleton in the closet, if true it may mean his leadership ambitions will be unfulfilled.
The Tory party after losing an election tends to behave with the discipline of a bag of cats, but surely the best thing for them is to hold their nerve, take a deep breath and get back to work. For all Howard’s faults, he has brought back a sense of purpose and some party discipline, allowing him to remain leader might be a wise course. Guido reckons he will break 200 seats, which is a fair result in the face of the Clintonesque political mastery of Blair and the resurgent LibDems. If Blair’s legacy to Brown is a double-digit majority it could result in him being a lame duck PM – one Labour candidate told me that in the event of the Tories winning the popular vote (the majority of votes actual votes cast, not seats) the Tories would be able to claim with some justification that Blair has no mandate. Brown would be tempted to push for the leadership and call another election. The candidate fantasised about a Brown led party being resurgent at the polls, oblivious to the reality that Brown is about as popular in England as haggis for breakfast.