by MONITOR
THE shoddy progression of Tony Blair's departure from No 10 Downing Street inched a stage further yesterday when he acknowledged that he will leave “within the next twelve months.” It follows, therefore that the Labour Party conference starting in two week's time will be his last, something he refused to admit to in his much-criticised interview in The Times only a week ago.

It has been a terrible week for Labour mainly because of Mr Blair's misjudgement or ignorance of the mood of the party. But, at least, Mr Blair yesterday acknowledged and apologised for the divisions shown by Labour which, he said, might have given the British public the impression that they were being treated as “irrelevant bystanders”. No doubt many members of the public said to themselves that they are quite used to that.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Blair's “next twelve months” formula will satisfy Labour's restlesds ranks. Attention is focussed on the first week of May next year when Scottish and Welsh parliamentary and English council elections will be held on May 3. Two days earlier Mr Blair will have marked his 10th anniversary at No 10, an achievement he will understandably want to see in the record books.

He could make an announcement on May 4, leaving six weeks for a leadership contest, if required, before parliament's summer recess. But we may not have heard Mr Blair's last word yet.

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