Wednesday, September 06, 2006

PM in pap smear

While Tony Blair was in York delivering an instantly forgettable speech on social inclusion, seventeen MPs are reported to have popped a letter into Number 10 requesting that he include himself out by tendering his resignation with immediate effect. No one has seen this letter yet but Blair loyalists are describing it as a ‘suicide note’, in a shameless attempt to inflate its importance. In a commendable effort, David Miliband managed to find forty-nine friendlies to jot down a quick letter of support for the beleaguered PM.

Meanwhile In another room a little way down the corridor of power, some thirty-eight bright young Labour things had donned several of Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats each and, in a Zen-like moment of clarity, composed an exit strategy for a whirlwind media junket. The scope of this mega-event is set to rival the farewell tour of Barbra Streisand, now in its fifth year. I don’t know if anyone is counting but I think, even assuming Gordon Brown has signed all three letters, the tally is still higher than the number of sitting Labour MPs.

It has been a long and very tedious day of blunt knives, of the kind only Customs would find interesting. Given the impossibility of staging a coup in the Labour Party these days, hacks are praying that a 24-carat golden handshake will do the trick. Frankly, there is more intrigue in Cash in the Attic. Still, the BYLT’s five page memo is jam-packed with the sort of charming gaucheries that give rise to the saying ‘a camel is a horse designed by committee.’

The ‘farewell tour’ proposes appearances on Songs of Praise and Blue Peter for starters. Guest judge on the X Factor must certainly be in the wings as Tony would relish the opportunity to demonstrate his uncanny ability to recognise hidden potential in Britain’s young people. A Big Brother House of Parliament would constitute must see TV and surely Tony would love to be on the other side of that camera. A petition is already thought to be in circulation calling for the BAFTAs (what a daft name), to be rebranded The British Tonys. So much media potential, so little time. Thank goodness for the BYLTs. ‘Time is not an unlimited commodity’, intones the farewell tour memo with a profundity that recalls Proust.

‘He needs to go with the crowds wanting more. He should be the star who won’t even play that last encore. In moving towards the end he must focus on the future.’ One can always hope that the Fender Strat will stay in its custom-made flight case but I wouldn’t count on it. The reference point for this proposal may well be that pivotal scene in Back to the Future where Michael J Fox parodies Chuck Berry. That led to two sequels.

‘Needs a daily grid, planned to the last detail. As much as possible a farewell tour, looking to the future, making sure the party is in the right place and the public remember him as he should be.’ This sounds like it could have come straight from Phil Collins’s PR and perhaps it did. Phil does seem to need a grid, oh no sorry, that’s a quid isn’t it? Happens when you don’t work much. I’m sure Phil’s advice on where to get the cheapest tour jackets made will be invaluable. I do agree that making sure the party is in the right place is crucial. The Blair camp will hopefully recall that it’s a very bad idea to hold a mid-winter party in a big tent.

‘We need to incorporate this into our media plan. It’s the elephant in the room, let’s face up to it.’ Interestingly, this point refers to Iraq rather than John Prescott - realistically no one wants to take him on. Tony does need to consider, with the possibility of his media profile increasing, how he will deal with the pressure. How will he cope when it’s just him and the paparazzi, after a heavy night out, tired and emotional? Will Nikons fly? You be the judge – unless of course Cherie gets to the bar first. Nah, that'll never happen.

Photo, David Cheskin /PA

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