It is very sad but true that Tony will only leave in a box. Many are hoping for a different exit. The Prime Minister himself will be looking for a triumphant departure “when the job (of public service reform) is done”. Alas, in organisation change, it never is. And history will not know for another 10 years where he has achieved and where not. Or he will hope for a “defining” moment.
Gordon Brown still waits for their handshakes to be honoured. The downsides of the alternative way heavily: old-style party public in-fighting, and the personal assassination of his co-former of New Labour and colleague for 10+ years. Wait on. To 2007. To the next election and beyond.
For Tony cannot leave voluntarily. Emotionally and psychologically he is stuck. Many of the very motivations which swept him to No. 10 and made him successful keep him there.
One of three presidents, prime ministers, captains of industry, writers and high achievers of all sorts lost a parent before the age of 14. Never again do they want that sense of powerlessness. The determination is to rest their fate from destiny. Thus is bred the person with high control needs. Who makes it to the top in the corporate boardroom? Not necessarily the most able, but the one who wants it more.
The self-beliefs usually follow: “Only I can do this”. “I know what is best” including the right time to go. All reinforced by the court around him or her, whose jobs of course depend on him remaining.
Tony probably sincerely believes that staying is right. And having made a loose agreement to go will find sincere reason to stay next year and thereafter, convincing himself of the “best interests” of that decision.
His anticipated feedings of worthlessness are too much to contemplate. And whilst we all see it as terminal, he has faced and overcome far greater challenges than this, from Clause4 to the Iraq War. Time and again, his astonishing political dexterity, his acute awareness of what others think and their unconscious cues, and his oration have meant he has seemingly simultaneously kept Mondeo man, Murdoch and the trade unions happy or quiet.
Just as Alex Ferguson cannot contemplate the prospect of England winning the World Cup, so Tony cannot bear the thought of Gordon occupying his house, his job, his hands on the controls.
He will only go as Margaret Thatcher went, and with Cherie in the box too. The Parliamentary Labour Party has too few formal roles, but killing off overdue leaders is one of them. As I learnt many years ago from a close relative in politics, the Conservative Party always has been world class at knowing when its leaders needed to go and in being ruthless in doing so. The Labour Party has never done it, preferring to wait and lose. Neil Kinnock should have gone well before 1992 to win that election, but he stayed. John Smith versus John Major would have been a different story. The issue now is of party discipline, so long imposed rightly, by the leadership on the party, and accepted. Discipline cuts both ways and is the Prime Minister’s turn to submit to party discipline. The PLP has to do it, and now. Waiting serves no purpose.
Once having the requisite number of public signatures and a vote if necessary, allow no wriggle and deliver the coup de grace. Sad but true. Then agree a rule that the Americans have some things rights and no one should serve as prime minister a day longer than 8 years.
Over to you PLP.