Cameron mocks ‘government of the living dead’

Tony Blair was accused of presiding over a “government of the living dead” by a Conservative party leader rejected as a disciple of Groucho Marx.

The two leaders traded classic movie insults in what is widely thought to be Mr Blair’s last prime minister’s questions before he announces his resignation as Labour leader.

Gordon Brown is set to assume the leadership in seven weeks and David Cameron claimed the Labour government is now “paralysed” as ministers consider their own careers.

Mr Cameron said: “We’ve got a home secretary splitting his department but he’s already resigned. We’ve got a foreign secretary negotiating a European treaty that she won’t be around to ratify and we’ve got a prime minister who even after last week’s drubbing simply doesn’t understand that it’s over.”

He continued: “I don’t know why the Cabinet are all shouting – the chancellor’s spin doctors are all running around the lobby, handing out all of their jobs. This is the government of the living dead.”

Mr Blair strongly rejected the claim, insisting the government will spend the next seven weeks focusing on policy.

Once again, he listed the government’s achievements since 1997 and accused the Conservatives of lacking policies.

He quoted Oliver Letwin’s analysis of Cameron’s Conservatism – which concluded “it all goes back to Marx” – accusing Mr Cameron of taking a Groucho Marx-esque approach to policy making.

Assuming the role of the elder statesman, Mr Blair warned the Conservative leader not to be “cocky” after his local election success, which saw the Conservatives win more than 800 new council seats.

“Come the general election, it’s policy that counts and on policy we win and he loses,” Mr Blair argued.

Earlier, the prime minister’s official spokesman (PMOS) denied claims Mr Blair will be a “lame duck” in his final weeks in office. Even after he resigned the leadership Mr Blair will remain “fully engaged” as prime minister, his spokesman insisted.

“Whatever the prime minister says about his party position does not affect his governmental position and he would remain as prime minister,” the PMOS said.

Mr Blair will prove he is not a “lame duck” by continuing to push domestic policy, especially on health and education, and attending the key G8 and EU summits, he continued.

The PMOS concluded: “People will be left in no doubt that the prime minister is fully engaged. He is focused and Downing Street is working at full steam.”

Mr Blair had long been expected to set out the date for his departure today or tomorrow, allowing him to first oversee the restoration of power to the Stormont assembly in Northern Ireland.

His spokesman confirmed Mr Blair will make an announcement “on the future” tomorrow. The prime minister is set to give Cabinet colleagues a date when he will stand down as party leader and prime minister.