Labour MP urges curbs on Blair's power

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair has become a presidential figure wielding "powers that would make Stalin blush", a senior Labour MP says in a new book.

Graham Allen, who served as a whip before the last general election, calls for wide-ranging reform of Parliament to increase the accountability of government and suggested the prime minister be chosen by direct presidential elections.

In The Last Prime Minister, which is sure to reignite the debate over the Government's dominance of Parliament, Mr Allen says the Prime Minister's power is now almost un-checked. He calls on Parliament and the Cabinet to "get off their knees" and rebuild themselves as a counterbalance to a presidency that is "filling a vacuum".

Mr Allen says: "Instead of a healthy balance we have an executive, the UK presidency, which stands like an 800lb gorilla alongside a wizened legislature and judiciary."

He launches an attack on the decline of Parliament, warning that MPs "stand like cowed and malnourished dependants, the latest victims of generations of abuse accepted as normality, rather than separate, lively checks on the executive".

Britain should "embrace" a new presidential constitution. The Queen would still be head of state, with direct elections to select the prime minister as head of the executive. The presidential style of government "inadvertently suffocates initiative at every lower level. Modern government is full of bright and capable people, many of whom have been deep-ly frustrated by the top-down culture, which they feel they cannot change or influence."

He attacks the long decline of cabinet government, arguing that Downing Street officials increasingly deal with issues without cabinet ministers being present.

"Working with Tony Blair in Opposition, I became used to the constant cancellation of team meetings and of the need to influence events informally; a style which has carried on in government. One cabinet minister told me, 'The PM just does not like large meetings'."

Mr Allen calls for reform of the Commons, urging MPs to invite experts to address Parliament. He suggests television interviewers host debates in the Commons. The 25,000-word book, available from Friday, has been published by Mr Allen and Politicos Bookshop in Westminster and costs £3.95.