Why is Cameron going easy with Blair on the succession?
The main political story in the Sunday Times this morning is of developments in the police “loans for peerages” investigation that could blight the final months of Tony Blair’s time at Number 10 and impact on his departure time-table.
According to the paper Labour’s chief fundraiser, Lord Levy, “has implicated Tony Blair as the key figure in the cash-for-honours scandal, a well-placed source has revealed.”
Levy is said to have “told Scotland Yard detectives last month that he was acting on the direct orders of Blair when he secretly obtained Â£14m in loans from businessmen to fund the party…He has been questioned twice in the past four months after it emerged that four businessmen who lent Labour money were also recommended by Blair for peerages. The honours were blocked by an official watchdog..Levyâ€™s potentially incriminating testimony could prove crucial to the decision to question Blair â€” the culmination of a seven-month inquiry. Police hope to interview the prime minister within the next five weeks..A prosecution source said: â€œLevy told the police that everything he did was for the top man. It wasnâ€™t for anybody else, just for Blair. Thatâ€™s why the PM has to be interviewed.”
All this links to the Blair departure time-table and another issue highlighted in this morning’s papers – why is Cameron not pressing Blair every week over the succession and, in particular, whether Brown has Blair’s support?
As Andrew Rawnsley observes in the Observer Blair had a very poor PMQs a fortnight ago when when Cameron taunted him. Did Blair want Brown or not? ‘Yes or no? – ‘I do, does he?’
Rawnsely writes: “After that squirming moment, Tony Blair was worried that the Tory leader would keep jabbing his finger into this vulnerable spot on a weekly basis. So was Gordon Brown. They are both a bit surprised that Mr Cameron has not asked the Prime Minister whether he endorses the Chancellor every Wednesday.”
For me this raises the question of what is the ideal Tory scenario for Blair’s departure.
Has Cameron calculated that him pressing Blair at every PMQs could hasten the departure when it is strategically better for the Tories for the Labour Prime Minister to go at the messy end of the police investigation?
The Tories have been dogged for years by the repercussions of the Hamilton, Aitken and Archer court cases. Are they hoping that this could all be topped by Blair and “loans for peerages”?
In the Blair departure betting the Q2 2007 price has now tightened to 0.8/1.
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