MPs banned from discussing Labour leadership

The Conservatives were in uproar today when the speaker of the House of Commons banned them from asking Tony Blair about the Labour leadership.

Michael Martin admonished David Cameron for demanding whether Mr Blair backed Gordon Brown as his successor during a highly charged prime minister’s questions.

He said it was Labour party business and not the business of today’s session – an announcement that provoked a storm of outraged shouts from the Tory benches.

It was the second time Mr Cameron had put the question – last time, the prime minister refused to endorse the chancellor and generally did not answer the question.

Before Mr Blair could respond, however, Mr Martin stepped in and told Mr Cameron that although he had let him off last time, he would not do so again.

“The prime minister is here to talk about the business of the government,” he said, adding: “Who will be the next leader of the Labour party is for the Labour party to talk about and decide.

“Ultimately it may be the case that it would turn out that the leader would become prime minister, but I’m telling the right honourable gentleman it is not a matter for the floor of the House.”

Mr Cameron responded by asking if the speaker was “honestly saying we cannot ask the prime minister of this country” about his successor, but Mr Martin intervened again.

“He has no right to ask on the floor of the House at prime minister’s questions who the prime minister is supporting for an office of the Labour party,” he ruled.

The Conservative leader then queried if he could “ask the prime minister who he would like to see as the next prime minister of the country”, to which Mr Martin agreed.

Mr Blair had clearly had his response ready throughout the debate, although it sounded more like a vote for Mr Brown over Mr Cameron, rather than a ringing endorsement that the chancellor should take over at No 10.

“A record that has delivered as chancellor the lowest inflation, lowest unemployment, lowest interest rates in this country’s history, that has managed the strongest growth of any major industry economy, that as a result of that has delivered, record investment in NHS, is a rather better recommendation than having spent some time in advising Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday,” Mr Blair said.