A meeting of monarchs on the sea coast of Pretoria

HERE'S THE latest instalment of the rediscovered Shakespearean saga, The History of King Tony or New Labour's Lost, Love. King Tony and Queen Cherie have flown to South Africa to meet King Nelson Mandela, who was cruelly imprisoned and held from his inheritance for so long by the wicked Regent, Prince W Botha.

An airport, South Africa. King Tony emerges from the aircraft, followed by scribblers, hacks, media lackeys and sundry hangers-on. There comes to meet them King Nelson Mandela of South Africa, with courtiers.

King Nelson: Welcome, King Tony, thrice welcome

to our shores!

Although you English have o'ercome our men,

And beaten us in bloody fearful combat,

Yet I forgive your prowess on the field!

King Tony: Victory in battle? This comes as news

to me!

(Aside.) If Mandelson were here, he'd know the


Alas! He shall advise me nevermore!

A newspaper hack steps forward from the crowd. Hack: Your Majesty, I think the King refers

To certain cricket matches played last year

In which the English beat the Springbok side.

Nelson: Spot on! You've got it right! For you must

know That I now take a great new pride in sport

Which is the passport to my people's hearts,

At least if they are white, I mean to say.

My black South Africans could not care less,

Except for soccer, which they seem to love.

I only wish my black footballing team

Was half as good as our white rugby boys!

So, how are things at home?

Tony: Oh, fine, fine, fine!

Nelson: Then there's no truth at all in what I read

Of sleaze and cronyism, Cabinet splits...?

Tony: These are the little things which come to

vex us,

Above which we should always rise care-free,

Leaving us time to face the real tasks,

Of health and schools and roads et cetera.

Our plan is now in place and we have done

Two thirds of what we pledged ourselves to do!

Let us be judged by what we have achieved

And not what petty tabloids have believed!

There appears to King Tony the spirit of Mandelson, which only he can see.

Spirit: Oh Tony, Tony, waste not time on this!

They do not want the health and schools routine! That's all for home consumption. While you're here,

Make friends with old man Nelson - he can help

With Libya, Lockerbie and all that,

And that would be a great PR coup for you!

But King Nelson is an ageing man

And not long for this world: see if you can

Discover his successor and make friends.

Yet do it quick! He looks not well to me.

The spirit of Mandelson vanishes.

Tony: Oh, stay, imperfect spirit, stay and say

What things await me on my coming home!

This book by Duke Cook's wife - does it contain

Much matter to my future loss or gain?

The spirit of Mandelson returns, looking flustered. Spirit: Look, sweetie, I can't keep on doing this -

These international visions cost the earth!

But since I've got another minute more,

Yes, I have read Madame Cook's little oeuvre.

She moans a lot, and says that Cook hates Brown.

But so we all do, dear, what's new there?

I'd forget about the book if I were you...

Now fly I home to rebuild my career!

The Duke of Prescott has it in for me, I fear!

The spirit of Mandelson vanishes for a second time.

Nelson: King Tony, tho' you seem lost in thought,

may I

Present to you th'Archbishop, Desmond Tutu?

Tony: Et Tutu, Brute?

Tutu: What's that?

Nelson: I didn't catch... The spirit of Mandelson reappears, looking hot and bothered.

Spirit: Tony, are you affected by the baking

weather? For God's sake man, just pull yourself together! The spirit vanishes for the final time. Exit all, looking thoughtful, save for the newspaper hack.

Hack: King Tony's looking more than a little frail... I think I'll try that on the Daily Mail.

Exit, looking for a phone.

More of this anon, sweet gentles.