by RAY FLEMING
THE rumours that Tony Blair will resign as Prime Minister by next summer at latest are growing more insistent. There are certainly plenty of reasons why he should do so and one of them is that Gordon Brown, his presumed successor, is rather cleverly being put on the back foot by David Cameron's frequent policy initiatives. There was a case in point yesterday. The morning TV and radio news bulletins announced that the Conservative leader had asked his “democracy taskforce”, which is being led by Kenneth Clarke, to look at the way in which the Royal Prerogative is being used, especially in relation to a govenment's decision to go to war. By mid-morning Mr Brown's office was pointing out that the Chancellor had spoken on this very subject a month ago to the Fabian Society and had suggested that governments should in future be required to obtain parliamentary approval for engaging in war. The Royal Prerogative certainly needs to be looked at. In theory it empowers the monarch to make all kinds of decisions but in practice with the passage of time these powers have passed to the government of the day which can use the Prerogative to take decisions it does not want to put in front of parliament. Margaret Thatcher used this power to by-pass parliament when committing troops to the Falklands campaign and Tony Blair did likewise in the case of intervention in Kosovo. However, Mr Blair wisely decided to get parliamentary approval for the Iraq invasion, although he could have used the Royal Prerogative to avoid doing so. There is a lot of tidying-up to be done in Britain's constitutional affairs and both Mr Brown and Mr Cameron deserve praise for giving an airing to their ideas. The Conservative leader also wants his taskforce to look into whether international treaties should come before parliament for approval and also senior public appointments, such as the Director General of the BBC. All of this is welcome and, if implemented, would help to restore the importance of parliament in public life after a period during which it has regrettably lost influence.