WAS Tony Blair “rattled”, as David Cameron alleged, at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday? Not quite, but he was certainly on the back foot over immigration. And no wonder, when the civil servant in charge of immigration had airily told a Commons committee the previous day that he did not have “the faintest idea of the numbers of illegal immigrants”. Mr Blair was ready for this one when Mr Cameron put it to him and quickly responded with a quotation that “by definition any estimate of the number of illegal immigrants is highly speculative” from one Michael Howard, until quite recently the occupant of Mr Cameron's seat. But overall, it was a win for David Cameron on points. The current Conservative leader's phrase of the day was that the government is “in paralysis”.
Actually it would be better applied to poor Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, who rises to ask his two questions looking like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights. Last week he had to refer to his notes, so yesterday he confined himself to a single sentence for each question. Would British troops be out of Iraq before Mr Blair left Downing Street? Would Guantanamo Bay be closed down before then? Both were pointless and ineffective put in that way. Later the Conservative Michael Mates, showing how it should be done, extracted a full and coherent reply from the prime minister on Iraq policy.