Hollywood “Terminator” Arnold Schwarzenegger was Tony Blair’s last guest as Prime Minister at No 10 today – as Mr Blair headed for a top Middle East job.
Standing alongside the former movie star at 10 Downing Street, Mr Blair borrowed a line from one of his Terminator films to say farewell, joking: “My press officer said to me, whatever else you do this morning, don’t say: ‘I’ll be back'”
The California governor brought Hollywood to London as he heralded a climate change deal with Britain that Mr Blair sees as a key legacy of his years in office.
The Prime Minister played host to a foreign visitor for one final time before winning the post that will guarantee a role on the world stage.
He is expected to be appointed to the £100,000-a-year job overseeing peace efforts in the Palestinian territories. The appointment was expected to be announced today, but looks likely to be announced tomorrow instead.
Tomorrow Mr Blair will tomorrow head for a meeting of his constituency amid speculation that he is preparing to stand down as a MP, his agent John Burton said tonight.
Mr Burton said that he expected Mr Blair would give up his seat in Sedgefield, County Durham, if – as expected – he is confirmed as the new international envoy to the Middle East.
“I think, if he gets the Middle East job, he will resign as an MP,” he said.
The talks with Mr Schwarzenegger, at No10, came as Mr Blair prepares to quit Downing Street tomorrow afternoon and hand over the reins of power to new Labour leader Gordon Brown.
Fresh from a European tour that took in trips to his native Austria, and to Paris to see French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Schwarzenegger was in Downing Street to praise Mr Blair’s work to combat global warming.
Last year, Mr Schwarzenegger signed legislation that imposed the first US statewide cap on greenhouse gases, garnering worldwide attention for a move that put California at odds with the Bush administration.
Mr Blair is expected to be made the international community’s new Middle East peace envoy.
Asked at a press conference this morning whether he was expecting to be offered such a post, Mr Blair neither confirmed nor denied the report but said he was ready to do “whatever I can”.
He said: “I think that anybody who cares about greater peace and stability in the world knows that a lasting and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is essential.
“As I have said on many occasions, I would do whatever I could to help such a resolution come about.”
Mr Schwarzenegger said he would back Mr Blair’s appointment as envoy for the quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia which is leading the international drive for Middle East peace.
But the governor, who has made the battle against climate change a personal crusade, added: “Out of selfish reasons I hope that he becomes the envoy for the environment and brings all the countries of the world together to join some kind of treaty – a Kyoto kind of treaty – that everyone can join and we can all together reduce greenhouse gases.
“I think the Prime Minister is the only person who can do that.”
The role, as special representative for the “Quarter” of US, Russia, Europe and the UN, will allow him to continue to play a part on the world stage.
The award of the top job to Mr Blair, which will see him working from Jerusalem, was set to be confirmed at a meeting of the world powers.
Although Mr Brown is publicly “relaxedî about the move, it was claimed today that he is privately unhappy about the appointment. But the Chancellor is unlikely to object as he is keen to avoid a last row with the Prime Minister before tomorrow’s handover.
Mr Brown’s closest aides Ed Balls and Treasury chief Jon Cunliffe have spent the past two years working on a detailed recovery plan for the Palestinian economy. The Foreign Office was reportedly irritated by the move as it has not been fully consulted.
Mr Blair will not be expected to act as a negotiator between the Palestinians and Israelis and will instead focus on getting the Palestinians ready for the creation of their own state. The White House revealed last week that Mr Blair was in line for the nomination, although No10 has repeatedly refused to give details.
The position of special representative has been vacant since former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn quit in April last year.
President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are thought to have been pushing for Mr Blair’s nomination for the role, although it was unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin was keen on the appointment.
There is still widespread anger among Arab opinion at Mr Blair’s involvement in the war on Iraq, his unswerving support for Israel during its war on Lebanon last summer and his closeness to Mr Bush. But it is claimed he is admired privately by many in the Arab elite, while all sides accept that having the confidence of the Israelis is a key requirement of the post.