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by RAY FLEMING
IN this space yesterday, writing about Tony Blair, I said: “How can he last? How long can he want to last? Will the Education Bill, now on its way, be the last hurrah of his reform programme.” In the edition of The Economist which went on sale yesterday a long leading article about Tony Blair concluded with these words: “He has set domestic policy especially on health and education on a better course. Only if he feels absolutely sure that he is capable of driving his health and other reforms through during the next two years should he stay longer. To do that, after nine wearying years in office, would be quite a task. Better, surely, for him to quit while he is still ahead.” There were other columns and leading articles yesterday in the British media arguing that Tony Blair's time is almost up. The sleaze factor involved in the revelations over party funding will not go away despite the reforms which Mr Blair belatedly intends to put in place. In fact, discussion over those reforms will only focus attention on the fact that he was forced into introducing them by the publicity given to the secrecy of the loans and their connection to peerages. His assertion this week about Iraq that he would “do the same thing again” shows that he is in denial on this subject and therefore cannot usefully take a fresh approach to the escalating problems of the Middle East. In fairness to Gordon Brown, to the Labour party and to the country Tony Blair should announce the date of his resignation as soon as possible rather than wait until he has to leave in disarray. With the hard work done on the Education Bill, the summer would be a natural time, enabling Gordon Brown to take over in good time for the Labour Party Conference in September. It is very difficult indeed to see what further service Tony Blair can render. He should leave before his achievements are overtaken and diminished by party infighting and further accusations of sleaze. Go Tony, go.