Sunday paper gossip columns are always fun to read. Mandrake in the Sunday Telegraph on 8 February was no exception. We were told Tony Blair will quit his job when Cherie reaches 50 on 23 September.
Tony will choose this date to give us all a break because "by then he will have done ten years as party leader and will want to spend more time with his family". Cherie will then be able to concentrate on her own career and - who knows? - may become a high court judge, like their mate Lord Hutton. Apparently, this "deal" between Cherie and Tony supersedes anything that has been agreed between the Prime Minister and Gordon Brown.
If there had been a scintilla of truth in the story, the Telegraph would have run it on the front page. But it was completely wrong. That did not stop the Express from abandoning yet another house-price scare splash for "Blair to quit". The story's source was allegedly Carole Caplin. Poor Patrick O'Flynn, the very talented Express political editor. He must feel acute embarrassment at being forced to write this rubbish. Even worse, he had to pen a "think piece" inside which included the immortal lines: "The Daily Express warned him that the home front was being neglected."
O'Flynn will have some consolation in knowing that as long as Tony Blair doesn't get knocked down by a bus, his headline will prove to be correct one day. But that day is a long way off. There is a general election to be won first. Whatever else you may say about our Prime Minister, he is no quitter. Talk of a new deal with the Chancellor is just as fanciful as the Express story. Gordon Brown had a deal once before. Blair didn't keep to it, so Brown is hardly likely to trust him again.