But can Labour MPs risk giving the Tory leader the trophy of the PM’s head
With David Cameron enjoying what are by far and away his best ever PMQ reviews in the papers this morning the question has to be asked – how much more of this can Tony Blair take? Could the apparent impossibility of his position force a departure much earlier than next summer?
My first reaction on watching the recording was to log onto Betfair to get out of my betting position on a Q3 handover. This simply cannot go on. Seeing their leader humiliated in this way is something Labour MPs won’t stand for week after week.
Just about the only factor that could help Blair now is that the last thing Labour MPs want to happen is for Cameron to be be seen as the person who finally brought their leader down.
They simply cannot give the Leader of the Opposition that trophy. This would be unprecedented and it could have a serious long-term impact.
If Cameron was seen to be the assassin he could forever taunt Brown about his failure to go for the final kill.
My guess is that next week the party will get behind the Prime Minister and it won’t be as bad as yesterday.
This is how the Telegraph describes the encounter. “..David Cameron yesterday showed how deep the pit dug by the Prime Minister has become. Mr Cameron was brutal. He forgot all that nonsense about an end to Punch and Judy politics and smashed Tony Blair over the head. Mr Blair tried to wriggle his way to safety. Half-way through one of the early exchanges he rose from his seat, thinking it was his turn to speak, only to be cut down by Mr Cameron: “Hold on a minute. I know you’ve only got a few more goes.” In one phrase Mr Cameron had summed up the Prime Minister’s pitiful, self-inflicted impotence..”
The mood amongst the parliamentary party is summed up well in a piece by Andrew Grice and Colin Brown in the Independent this morning that says that Blair’s chances of staying on until the summer suffered a set-back by Cameron’s taunting.
The report goes on “Labour MPs said last night that the Prime Minister’s grip on power was slipping away and urged him to quit sooner rather than later. Shop stewards representing Labour MPs, who met Mr Blair after Prime Minister’s Questions, were dismayed at his performance. One said: “People have tried to push him out and that failed. Gordon can’t lift a finger now. But Tony cannot go on like this.” Ian Gibson, a long-standing backbench critic of the Prime Minister, said: “The head is off, but the legs are still kicking.” He called on Mr Blair publicly to endorse Mr Brown…Even Blair loyalists were appalled at his performance. “I’ve never seen him fumble the ball like he did today,” said one ally. “I don’t know how long he stay on after this.” Another is quoted as saying “We can’t have this every week”.
The price on a Q4 2006 departure has tightened considerably since yesterday afternoon – partly as a result of Blair’s lacklustre performance and party because of renewed speculation about the “cash for peerages” police investigation.