How long before Blair is interviewed?
There are worrying reports for Tony Blair in the Independent this morning about the way the police inquiry into the “cash for honours” affair is progressing with suggestions that one member of the Downing Street staff is proving “extremely helpful to the investigation”.
In his report Andrew Grice quotes a source with knowledge of the police inquiry as saying “Only two ministers knew when a system of secret loans was set up. One was Ian McCartney, who gave the party’s authority for it. The other was Tony Blair.”
McCartney, the former Labour chairman, Grice notes, gave the “party authority” to the system of loans but strongly denies knowing who made them.
In another piece in the Independent Matthew Norman reports that “…the thing that preoccupies Mr Tony Blair to the exclusion of all else is where the Metropolitan Police will finally feel his sweat-drenched collar. According to credible reports, our PM and his advisers are in “meltdown” over the investigation into the alleged flogging of peerages. It is no longer a matter of whether he will answer the questions of John Yates of the Yard, nor really of when. It will happen fairly soon, and the one important question (apart from whether it takes place under caution; and even that, considering Lord Levy was cautioned, seems inevitable) is geographical..If the interview is held in his Commons office, as he must pray, there will be no pictures of Mr Yates arriving at all, while photographs of a large Rover gliding through the electric gates of Chequers won’t have a fraction of the impact of the one that petrifies him. That, of course, is the picture on every front page and at the start of every television news bulletin of Assistant Commissioner Yates passing one of his constables as he enters No 10..“
Just how long Blair would be able to carry on in the job if such an interview took place is hard to say. But could he really be able remain in post for long after he had been interviewed by police under caution?
I still have a sense that he might try to pre-empt everything by surprising us all and announcing a much earlier departure than planned. Blair would want to go out on his own terms without him being seen to have been hounded out.
You cannot but feel sorry for Blair in all of this. He alone carried the burden before the election to find the money the money to fight the campaign and he might be the one that gets lumbered.
The Q4 2006 option in the “Blair leaving date” markets has tightened to 20/1.