» Thursday, June 21, 2007


Asked to describe the sequence of events earlier today, the Leader said that, like a number of colleagues, he had sat alongside Mr Blair since he had become Prime Minister, and before that. Today had been the most poignant meeting in many ways; it had also been a very moving occasion, in which people were able to give tribute to both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister for the extraordinary service which they had given, above all, to the nation. Mr Straw said that it was the first time he had ever seen a standing ovation in the room. By a process of consultation in advance, he had opened the tributes. He had been followed by the DEFRA Secretary and by the Chancellor. Chancellor of the Duchy presented a gift to the DPM and the DCMS Secretary had done likewise to the Prime Minister. The DPM had spoken about his period in office, followed by the Prime Minister. It was followed by a standing ovation which continued as the Prime Minister left.

Asked what he thought of the Prime Minister’s comment that it was "the right time to go", Mr Straw said that, as everyone had hoped, the transition had been constructive and orderly.

Asked if anyone had been tearful, the Leader said he could not say, adding that he thought everyone had felt a welling in the back of the throat. It had been a remarkable occasion. It had been a phenomenal privilege for him, as someone who had served with the Prime Minister continuously for 13 years, to have been present today.

Asked who had chosen the gifts of paintings, the Leader said that had come about by the "usual osmotic processes". Colleagues had decided informally about five weeks previously to make a presentation.

Asked if a date for the next meeting of Cabinet had been pencilled in, Mr Straw said one had not been announced. It was not for him to make the announcement.

Asked if there had been any discussion in Cabinet about whether there should be a post of Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader said that there was not – and never would be. It was a matter for the Prime Minister since time immemorial.

It was put to Mr Straw that, if he knew the date of the next Cabinet, it suggested that he would be a member of it. He said it did not, adding that he could know the time of the first race at Ascot but it did not mean that he would be there !

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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