Look closely at the form of words Blair used:
“I think what is important now is that we understand that it’s the interests of the country that come first and we move on. I would have preferred to do this in my own way… The next party conference in a couple of weeks will be my last party conference as party leader, the next TUC conference next week will be my last TUC – probably to the relief of both of us.
“But I am not going to set a precise date now. I don’t think that’s right. I will do that at a future date and I’ll do it in the interests of the country and depending on the circumstances of the time.”
Blair can argue that he gave a commitment to the people at the general election to serve a “full term“ and the voters gave him that mandate. He can also argue that he gave a promise to give the next leader of the Labour party “time to bed in“. If he stood down as Labour leader but not as PM he could keep both promises. It would also let him keep his grip on power as he tries finally to get radical Blairite policies and reforms implemented.
José María Aznar lost the support of the people who had voted for the Partido Popular in 2000 and had to pledge not to run again. In January 2004 Aznar called new elections and designated his candidate, Mariano Rajoy, sticking to his pledge of not seeking office for a third term. Despite political tensions, polls suggested that the Partido Popular was set to win a third consecutive election. It almost worked except the backlash from the Madrid bombings derailed the plan.
The Aznar option in Britain would see Blair designating Brown as his successor with the hope that Blair could have as his legacy a fourth Labour term. It would make him an historic hero for Labour and they might even forgive him for Iraq…