Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I didn't see this until it was raised at PMQs today but Peter Riddell in the Times has claimed that Blair asked Prescott to give up his luxury tax-payer funded home when he took away his department. Prescott apparently refused.

When asked whether this was true at PMQs, Blair refused to confirm or deny the report. Andrew Neil and Nick Robinson were of the view that Blair's refusal to deny the claim was an implicit confirmation of it. I agree.

What surprised me was that Nick was of the view that "someone close to the Prime Minister" had intentionally leaked this story to Riddell in an attempt to distance the PM from the running sore that Prescott's continued enjoyment of the trapping of power (without any actual power) is causing.

The message we're supposed to get, apparently, is this. Blair has not lost his ability to make political judgements as some have suggested. He actually could see that Prescott being allowed to keep his perks would be enormously embarrassing and he told Prescott that. But Prescott, the greedy bastard, refused to give up his grace and favour lifestyle in spite of the wise PM's warnings.

The thing is, who's ultimately responsible for continuing to allow Prescott to occupy a first class seat on the gravy train? It's the ticket master himself. The Prime Minister is the one who has the final say on such issues.

If Blair really did see this coming but was unable to do anything about it in the face of Prescott's refusal to give up his perks, where does that leave the authority of the Prime Minister? Nowhere. He can't even get his own deputy to do what he wants. This is surely just going to add fuel to the accusations that he's a lame duck whose authority is in terminal decline.

I welcome that fact of course. But is that really the message Blair and his allies want to send out? Rather than a rebutal of accusations that Blair is losing any vestige of political good judgement, this surely has the opposite effect.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There MUST be dirt on the Vicar somewhere out there.

Mandelsohn, Blunkett, Prescott. To name but three who should have marched but were allowed to stay despite compelling arguments for them to go.

Prescott has a long and inglorious track record of incompetence. Just how desperate is the "left" that this chump has to retain a symbolic "high office" to keep them appeased?