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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 17:33 GMT
Who is the man to KO Cameron?
Sketch
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News Website

Just who could the prime minister have been thinking of when he painted a brutal picture of the punishment awaiting David Cameron at the next general election?

Tony Blair
Mr Blair appeared to depart from his script to attack Cameron

In a verbal bare-knuckle assault on the Tory leader, he warned Mr Cameron he was facing a bloody beating at the hands of his successor.

He conjured up an image of a Labour bruiser, fists the size of footballs, swinging wildly at a slight, ducking and dodging opponent in silk shorts who is finally smashed off his feet by a devastating haymaker.

Mr Cameron, he said, would be a flyweight facing a heavyweight, and no matter how much he danced around he would eventually come within reach of a "big clunking fist".

"He will be out on his feet, carried from the ring," like so many Tory leaders before him, he declared with glee.

It was an image that brought his excited MPs, already bouncing around like a children's party overdosing on E numbers, to near euphoria.

New puzzle

Gordon Brown clearly believed he was the heavyweight being referred to and was so overcome he virtually hugged the prime minister.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown was delighted with talk of knockout blows at the next election
But then Home Secretary John Reid also seemed to take heart and enjoyed a little moment's chat with his boss once he had finished slapping Mr Cameron around.

So, a new puzzle for Westminster watchers to grapple with? Who has the biggest, clunkiest fist? Could there be a final eliminator before the challenge at the next election?

Truth is, on this performance, it appears to be the outgoing prime minister.

Looking relaxed and in command - amazing what the thought of early retirement can do to a leader - he, frankly, knocked the Tory leader all around the ring.

After Mr Cameron accused Mr Blair of wasting his decade in power to the extent he was now "desperately looking for his legacy", the prime minister appeared to snap.

Brushing aside the niceties of the occasion, he launched into a freestyle rant about the horror that had been the past Tory government before, almost apologetically getting back to the business at hand and his prepared script.

Core messages

The Labour benches loved it, Mr Cameron looked less delighted.

The Tory leader had crafted a careful speech aimed at hammering home a couple of core messages about wasted years, failure to deliver and the government's habit of trading on fear rather than hope.

David Cameron
Mr Cameron joked he was relieved the PM was going
He had some good sound bites. The best was a quote from the actor Keith Allen - currently playing the Sherriff of Nottingham as a calculating sociopath who saw himself as dictator of England - who said he had based his character on Gordon Brown.

But he was facing a prime minister delivering his last ever address on the Queen's speech and clearly enjoying the freedom it gave him.

At one point in his speech, Mr Cameron said he was relieved Mr Blair was quitting.

"I checked he was going before I applied for the job," he joked.

After this performance he probably has even more reason to be relieved.




QUEEN'S SPEECH 2006

KEY COVERAGE

ISSUE-BY-ISSUE COVERAGE
 

ANALYSIS AND FEATURES
Boxing gloves Gloves are off
Tony Blair denies using politics of fear... then warns Cameron he faces a thumping

BACKGROUND
Pomp and pageantry

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