Cameron: It’s all over for Blair

It is in the “national interest” for Tony Blair to step down now and allow someone else to take over running the country, David Cameron has declared.

The Conservative leader said the prime minister’s authority was “draining away” and it was time to accept “the reality staring him in the face” – that he was a “short-term executive” who could no longer control his government.

Mr Cameron told MPs: “The prime minister talks about his policy – he’s not going to be here to implement it. When is he going to realise that it’s all over?

“Just look at his cabinet – they’re falling over themselves to attack his foreign policy so they can become deputy leader and the other half are appearing on picket lines to protest against his health policy.

“And there’s nothing he can do about it. Can’t he see it is time for him to go?”

Mr Blair has promised to leave by September, but refused to set a date. However, he has said he would lead Labour into the Scottish and Welsh elections in May, and indicated he would attend a European summit in June.

During prime minister’s questions today, Mr Cameron noted John Reid’s admission that it could take two and a half years to resolve the troubles at the Home Office, but asked how Mr Blair could reassure these changes would be implemented.

“Isn’t that the whole problem of this government? In any organisation if you have long-term problems you can’t have a short-term chief executive,” the Tory leader said.

“Doesn’t the prime minister realise that in these circumstances a minister like the home secretary just cannot plan for the future?”

Mr Blair hit back saying that he could “certainly guarantee” the government would continue investment in prison places – 8,000 of which are due to be built in the next four years – as well as in more police and community support officers.

He said of Mr Cameron: “As a result of the fiscal rules his shadow chancellor has got, that mean he would share the proceeds of growth between tax cuts and investment, he can’t even commit to the 8,000 places, so there’s no point in lecturing me about it.”

The Tory leader replied that the person responsible for releasing funds to Mr Reid was the chancellor, “his bitter rival who wants him to fail”. Mr Blair rejected this, saying it was because of Gordon Brown that the prison investment was made possible.

Mr Cameron then went for the kill, saying: “Why can’t the prime minister see the reality staring him in the face?

“The government cannot plan, ministers are treading water, they are all waiting for the chancellor and not listening to him. His authority is draining away. Why can’t he accept what everybody knows – it is now in the national interest for him to go.”

But Mr Blair replied: “I’ll tell you what is in the national interest, that we continue with strong economy. that we continue with our policy for the health service.that we continue with our policies on education.and that we continue to reduce crime, not as his government did which was put it up.”