Tony Blair styled himself the heir of Margaret Thatcher to win votes from middle England, but he may have more in common with the great Conservative leader than he may desire. Both became too much for their parties.

A vicious war has been played out in newspapers across the UK – particularly since Labour’s poor showing local government election in May – over Blair’s future.

The Sun reports today that Blair will announce his departure on 31 May next year after ten years in office. But The Sun’s rival redtop, The Daily Mirror, may have the more interesting story.

It details the efforts of Blair loyalists to protect his legacy – a leaked five page memo revealing how Labour advisers are planning his exit from Number Ten. “Time is not an unlimited commodity,” it warns – giving credence to The Sun’s story.

Blair styled himself the heir of Thatcher, to the irritation of many in his party – just as David Cameron is infuriating Tory diehards by proclaiming himself the logical successor to Blair.

“His genuine legacy is not the delivery, important though that is, but the dominance of new Labour ideas…the triumph of Blairism,” the memo reads.

Cameron is embracing those ideas, but the constant critique of the Blair government has been that it is all spin and no substance. The memo will do little to lift this. According to the Mirror, it suggests:

Spending a day then an overnight stay in half a dozen cities across the country.

Visiting the 20 most striking buildings opened or redeveloped since 1997.

Increasing the number of high-profile tours of schools and hospitals.

Avoiding discussing Mr Blair’s job offers – fuelling rumours he’s received approaches…

And the memo does little for internal tensions in Labour. “There are specific issues which can provide opportunities and threats. They are: GB’s [Chancellor and leadership aspirant Gordon Brown] reaction…the more successful we are the more it will agitate and possibly destabilise him, we need to consider how to deal.”

The Mirror, of course, is not neutral. It has been a fierce critic of Blair in the past. Still, it’s hard not to agree with the comment on the Guardian blog: “Pity the poor memo-writer… It must have sounded so good at the time.” And it’s impossible not to conclude that our Prime Minister has been much better dealing with a tetchy Treasurer.

Peter Fray

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