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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 13:29 GMT
Business as usual for Blair
Sketch
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Well, Tony Blair clearly doesn't think he is going to be moving out of Downing Street any time soon.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair set out his future agenda
As revealed during his session before the Commons liaison committee, he has agreed to appear before the MPs one last time before he rides off into his memoirs.

And it is unlikely he expects to be subjecting himself to their scrutiny within only a few weeks of this performance.

Secondly, he launched into the two-and-a-half hour session by setting out the packed agenda he has set for himself - including any number of "difficult decisions" and "big public debates" on everything from security and terrorism to the public services and climate change.

He even suggested, through his enthusiasm for their agendas, that he fully expected to be at both the EU and G8 summits in June.

And, as far as the probing of his current policies was concerned, this was an entirely routine, business-as-usual meeting.

Except, perhaps, for one thing. And it was this one thing that gave the only hint that here was a prime minister coming rapidly towards the end of his reign.

There were no rows, no heated clashes and no great political point scoring.

Bust ups

At previous liaison committee sessions, the likes of Edward Leigh or Sir George Young from the Conservatives, or Labour's Gwyneth Dunwoody, could be relied on to get into some serious, headline-attracting bust ups with the prime minister.

Tony Blair before the liaison committee
Committee members pressed about next prime minister's intentions
But not this time.

Indeed, neither the Opposition MPs on the committee nor Mr Blair's opponents - not necessarily the same group of people - seemed up for a fight.

In fact, a number of them appeared far more interested in what his successor might get up to when he has assumed power.

As an aside, it was noted that in response to one question about his successor, Mr Blair referred directly - and without prompting - to discussions he had had with Gordon Brown.

This was in contrast to most of the committee's inquiries about the likely intentions of the next prime minister, which saw Mr Blair simply saying he hoped his successor would carry on the good work.

Although, was there just a hint of uncertainty when he was asked whether his "hard power" approach to foreign relations and close alliance with the US would survive him?

That, said the prime minister, was the question.

And it would be a great idea if there was a big public debate about it (his own answer being that it would be folly to abandon either).

It was hard not to gain the impression that the MPs have, to some extent, disengaged from Tony Blair.

That, like just about everybody else in Westminster, they are already looking towards the next prime minister.




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