At last - the true facts about the people's tragedy

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AT LAST the long wait is over. The facts have been studied from every angle and all the relevant questions have been asked. Now the rightful conclusions have been drawn.

Let us hope that matters will now be allowed to rest, and that everyone will be left in peace.

The facts of the matter are really very simple.

Two years ago, the darling of the nation disappeared.

One moment, he was a fresh-faced, youthful, radiant young man who symbolised our discontent with the past and the chance of a wonderful future. He seemed a breath of fabulous fresh air after all the stuffed shirts of the Tory years and the Establishment.

Then he was elected Prime Minister. Today, Tony Blair is a frowning, worried, perplexed middle-aged man who seemingly finds problems harder and harder to deal with.

What people have always wanted to know is: where did the devil-may- care, tousle-haired, People's Premier go to? For two years people have wondered endlessly what exactly happened to cause the change, and whether there was a conspiracy behind the transformation of a darling young boy into a middle-aged man. Now at last a report has come out ("Tony Blair: What Exactly Happened And Who Can We Blame?") which comes to the unanimous verdict.

There was no conspiracy.

It was just an accident of office.

It is something that happens to all prime ministers.

For a while there is a period of honeymoon that blinds the public to any faults in its loved one, and the People's Premier rode on the crest of the wave of this one. Endless pictures, endless parties, endless smiling portraits. Tony can never grow old, we thought.

Oh, yes, there were rumours of strange affairs and liaisons with such wildly unsuitable people as Paddy Ashdown. There was rumoured to be an amitie de foudre between our Tony and the American President, Bill Clinton. But we paid no heed to such tittle-tattle, because the golden prince could do no wrong. He was in love with us, not with them.

All that began to change on that fateful day when Tony decided to go into Kosovo. Some of his friends begged him not to go in. They knew what conditions were like in Kosovo. They knew that it was an early grave for many a politician. They knew he might never come back. But he ignored all their warnings and went into Kosovo, and all hell broke loose.

"I think he was already beginning to fool himself by then," says a psychiatrist. "He had been told so often by his courtiers that he could do anything, that he had come to believe his own golden myth. He had turned from being a gentle, peace-loving People's Premier into someone who seemed to be convinced that dropping bombs on people was the answer.

"He really believed that he had solved the problems of Kosovo and of Iraq and of Northern Ireland, and when the smoke cleared and the problems were still there, not to mention lots of dead people, he couldn't quite believe it.

"And, of course, although he seemed glittering to us, a sort of golden prince figure, I think he led a very solitary life, with not many people to talk to, which is why he placed undue reliance on such close and plainly unsuitable people as Peter Mandelson."

There were also strange stories about the People's Premier and his favourite charities. Stories, for instance, about his going out late at night and meeting people who were working to abolish the House of Lords, or fox- hunting, and giving them his full backing...

"This was another example of his increasing divorce from reality," says the psychiatrist. "He really came to think that it was important to reform the House of Lords and stop people chasing foxes with dogs. Well, there may be a case for both, but to imagine that they are important enough to go on your priority list is an indication that you have started to lose your grasp on the really important things. There again, he was surrounded by courtiers on whom he had come to depend so strongly. He had nobody ordinary left to talk to, no one who might have dragged him back to common sense..."

A reader writes: Dear Mr Kington, I am beginning to suspect that you have dragged out this parallel between Tony Blair and Diana, Princess of Wales just about as far as it will go.

Miles Kington writes: I am inclined to agree with you. Let's knock off for today.

Starting tomorrow! Only in `The Independent'! The love letters I was proud to get from Tony, by Peter Mandelson!