| Time to say goodbye: Blair with the Queen at No. 10 Downing Street in 2002
London, June 24: It will be, ultimately, a very British end to it all. Just after 12.30pm on Wednesday, Tony Blair will step into Pegasus, as the armour-plated prime ministerial limousine is known to the security services, and make the short trip up The Mall to Buckingham Palace.
After a short audience with the Queen, during which he will formally resign his office, the newly humbled MP for Sedgefield will be driven off to Chequers, where he and his family will stay “for a few days” before going off on holiday.
He will travel to Chequers in a lesser car — Pegasus will remain at the palace, awaiting the arrival of the next Prime Minister.
As soon as Blair leaves the palace, Sir Robin Janvrin, the Queen’s smooth and discreet private secretary, will make a telephone call to the treasury.
Gordon Brown, no doubt pacing nervously up and down his cavernous office, will be summoned to the palace. He and his wife, Sarah, will be driven there in a rather shabby government red Rover.
After another short audience, during which the Queen will ask Brown to form the government, he will abandon the Rover, take his seat in Pegasus and glide back to Whitehall.
Outside Number 10 the new Prime Minister will give a brief speech — the first test of his infant premiership as he seeks to live up to those previously delivered by Blair (“Today, enough of talking. It is time now to do”) and Margaret Thatcher (“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony”).
He will then pass through the famous black door. As it shuts behind him, Prime Minister Brown will surely take a moment to savour the achievement, at last, of his lifelong ambition.
The week ahead promises to be one of the most dramatic and momentous in modern British politics: the departure of one of the most electorally successful Prime Ministers; the end of a bruising personal rivalry that has overshadowed the past decade at Westminster; the ascendancy of a man who has long believed the crown to be rightfully his, to face a rejuvenated Conservative Party led by a young, smooth operator not drastically dissimilar to the man Gordon Brown is replacing.
On Wednesday, the new Prime Minister is unlikely to allow himself much more than a small sip of celebratory champagne before embarking on a round of calls to fellow world leaders.
These will include US President George W. Bush — thought likely to be the first foreign call he makes — plus key European figures, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, as well as Jalal Talabani, the President of Iraq, and Nuri al-Maliki, the country’s Prime Minister, who will play a vital role in determining the solution of Brown’s first and biggest foreign policy dilemma.
The next morning, he will unveil his cabinet, having spent the previous three days putting the finishing touches to his top team. This weekend, the top posts are said to be “very fluid” with a lot riding on the outcome of Labour’s deputy leadership election, to be announced today.
By the end of next week, the government will be in place and Brown will have finally achieved his side of the notorious “deal” struck with Blair at the Granita restaurant in Islington in May 1994. The bitter and bloody TB-GB wars, which dominated Blair’s decade in power, will be at an end.