UNTIL only a couple of months ago David Milliband, the environment minister, was being touted as Labour's answer to the problem of a successor to Tony Blair if someone had to be found to block Gordon Brown's accession. But we must give thanks, in the interests of the nation, that Mr Milliband's prospects faded. Otherwise we might have had as prime minister a man who apologised to the House of Commons yesterday for being late to answer questions because of the time it took him “to cross the floods of tears that are now trailing down Downing Street” after the prime minister's final cabinet meeting.

Clearly Mr Milliband was very wet even before he bravely breasted the lachrymation trickling into Whitehall and on this showing he will remain wet even when he has dried off.

Tony Blair, with Gordon Brown, completed the transformation of the Labour Party begun by John Smith and Neil Kinnock and he won three elections. So it is natural and right that senior Labour ministers should show their appreciation of his achievements. But clearly all perspective was put on one side yesterday. Mr Blair praised John Prescott, whose farewell it also was, for his “intelligence and shrewdness” and the Deputy Prime Minister said he would be leaving office “with his head held high”. Mr Blair praised Mr Brown and he returned the compliment. It hardly bears thinking what we shall hear from the Labour faithful at Tony Blair's final PM's Questions next Wednesday.