Blair's score draw
How does he do it? His government crashes - thanks to a lethal mix of alleged sleaze, corruption and incompetence. The wreckage is still burning. Yet the pilot walks through the flames with a broad grin on his face, blaming everyone else for what's gone wrong and pledging to clear up the mess.
Today Tony Blair claimed that the deportation of foreign prisoners was not a problem his government had created - but one that they were solving. ("Oh that's alright then" I hear you cry). Having airily dismissed his failure to implement his old policy, he turned to the future and pledged to introduce a new one. A change of the law will mean that the working assumption will be that all foreign criminals will be deported whatever their crime rather than - as now - merely considered for deportation if their sentence is longer.
Just like Margaret Thatcher before him, Tony Blair has the ability to ask what on earth the government is up to - like a caller to a radio phone-in - and then promise to sort it out.
At Prime Minister's Questions (watch it here) it proved to be a neat trick. He changed the subject, neatly sidestepping today's revelation that half of the most serious prisoners who could and should have been deported are still on the run. He put himself on the side of ordinary voters and in agreement with his most fervent critics in the press. He sought to embarrass the opposition parties for opposing many of his previous reforms to tighten up asylum policy on human rights grounds. Finally, he achieved a score draw (at worst) in the theatre that is the Commons - and, yes, that does still matter.
Tony Blair's objective is to convert this from a question of Labour's competence to yet another battle between him and the civil libertarian lobby. He relishes fights with his backbenchers and the courts. What he hates is the suggestion that, whatever he says, his ministers aren't up to the job.
An ally of David Cameron told me recently that the Tory leader and his friends are often in awe of the PM's capacity to walk free from troubles that would destroy anyone else.
I don't doubt that after what he said were nine days of bad headlines there'll be more to come. I don't doubt that the local elections will be anything but good for him. But today it could - and arguably should have been - much much worse.
Update 1700: As if to prove my point, the Prime Minister's official spokesman has just said that the new proposals amount to "the biggest change in deportation arrangements for a generation and we are quite well aware of that". He went on to say "we expect these matters to be likely to be challenged in the courts. We also expect these matters may be controversial in the media - so be it."
That's Westminster code for "please, please can we have a row about this"!