Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nothing Has Really Changed, Tony Still Doesn't Want to Go; COMMENTARY

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nothing Has Really Changed, Tony Still Doesn't Want to Go; COMMENTARY

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNE MCELVOY

SO Alastair Campbell's diaries are to hit us in June. As Mr Campbell always used to remind us, they were not being written for publication, heavens no, but things change rapidly in New Labour these days.

Ever since Mr Blair's former aide conceded that his memoirs will be published, he has been adamant that it would only happen when Mr Blair has quit. That rather depends what you mean by leaving, as Mr Blair at his most evasive might put it.

There is a no man's land in politics when a leader announces he is going and the race to succeed him begins.

The length and timing of that period is still subject to "some final discussion", as one No 10 aide puts it.

The Prime Minister has said he intends to attend the 21 June European Union summit as a final farewell on the international stage and he will not want to miss the G8 meeting the same month.

But his exit, even at this late stage, is still the subject of uncertainty and a tinge of irritation in the Gordon Brown camp, where the desire to get hold of the limelight and the political agenda before the summer sloth descends is keenly felt.

The deputy leadership campaign is also felt by many of those not in it (and one who is) to be capable of damaging Labour's hard-won reputation for unity as the factions fight it out in a proxy battle over the future of the party.

The argument has moved from the debate about whether Mr Blair should go before the May local elections, which he has made clear he will not, to how soon he should go after a result that will see a mid-third term slump reinforced by the negative backwash of the cash for peerages affair.

Even some senior figures previously more close to Mr Blair than the Chancellor think that he should stand down straight after the elections, allowing a minimum four-week leadership campaign which, barring any upsets, Mr Brown will have to himself - apart from a possible token bid from the dusty Left. …

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