Derek Draper, former spindoctor to Peter Mandelson (but now estranged), writes in this morning’s Mail on Sunday about an audacious plan by Tony Blair to resign as Labour leader at this year’s October conference but stay on as PM for another couple of years. The plan – which Draper thinks the Labour ruling body should declare "unacceptable" – is apparently the brainchild of Mandelson, Milburn and Blair.
The increasingly desperate Blairite faction is still anxiously scrabbling around for a way to stop Brown from becoming PM. Under their ‘bunker plan’ Alan Milburn will contest Gordon Brown for the Labour crown – a story that is also taken seriously in the Sunday Mirror. Alan Milburn, Draper writes, won’t be a stalking horse candidate – but an "attack dog". His intention would not be to win the Labour leadership but "to fatally wound the Chancellor". Then, continues Draper:
"Then, with all in chaos, Young Turk David Miliband will come up through the middle as the ‘fresh face’ needed to heal the party’s wounds."
It all sounds pretty unlikely but even if it’s completely untrue it reveals some of the poison that now clogs the arteries of the Labour beast. Voters hate party disunity and the real beneficiaries will be Cameron and Campbell on 4th May. Relations at the top of Labour deteriorated during the last week when Blairites Byers and Milburn challenged Brown’s approach to pensions. Brown has, The Observer reports, been dropped from Labour’s local election launch – apparently after Number Ten’s fury at Brown’s withdrawal of the £200 council tax discount for pensioners. Downing Street thinks the withdrawal was designed by Brown to worsen Labour’s local election results next month and hasten Blair’s departure. Brownites, meanwhile, have apparently stopped co-operating with Blair’s inner circle over the Chancellor’s transition plans: "The Chancellor’s allies now claim they cannot even trust top civil servants with Brown’s plans for future policies because they are "leaked to Number Ten" and then adopted by Blair" (Sunday Mirror).
Meanwhile, in the News of the World, a poll which is headlined as ‘it’s time for Blair to leave’, actually finds that the name number of voters – 30% each – identify Brown or Blair as the better PM (almost exactly the same percentages as identified by YouGov for Friday’s Telegraph).