Political theatre at its soppiest

Not a dry eye in the house -- except the press gallery

The admission of the fear he felt every time he stepped up to take Prime Minister's questions came right at the end of a suitably accomplished final performance from Tony Blair. He should not have worried as the tributes flowed from his political opponents inside and outside his own party. Politically, it was largely meaningless. He effectively confirmed his new role as an envoy in the Middle East. He admitted he had not always been the best House of Commons man. He paid tribute to his adversaries.

However, for this observer, the roll call of dead in Iraq and Afghanistan that has become a ghastly tradition before PMQs, hung over the whole occasion. No one would expect him to admit that the original decision to go to war was wrong. But now he is leaving office, Blair could have recognised that the situation in Iraq is a murderous nightmare that he had failed to imagine or plan for. That would have been more of a tribute to the troops who still have to serve there than the usual platitudes about what a great job they are doing.

The standing ovation was spontaneous from the Labour benches and although the opposition benches resisted for a few seconds, in the end they too rose to their feet. Only the press gallery, jammed full of Blair's feral beasts, remained seated and dry eyed.