Who was that masked man? Certainly not Labour's Lucifer, more a groovy Disney outlaw

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The Independent Online
"Tony Blair is a practising Christian," whined Mr Peter Mandelson in the Evening Standard, "Whatever you think of his political views, to portray him as the Devil is a crass, clumsy move". "Mr Blair is depicted flashing his characteristically winning smile," reported the Daily Telegraph, "but his eyes have been replaced by those of a demonic alien". "Vilifying members of other political parties is a puerile exercise," thundered the Bishop of Oxford, "and when that vilifying draws on satanic imagery..."

Whoa, whoa there, hang on just a minute. What is all this baloney about the Devil? The Tory party's poster of Mr Blair looking rather dashing in a mask has, as far as I can see, no connection whatever with the Horned One. Its provenance is perfectly obvious to all - all, that is, who have seen the Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame. They will have seen Mr Blair's lovely features - complete with mask - on a harlequin character called Clopin, a crazed all-singing, all-dancing Master of the Revels who rabble- rouses through the streets inviting the locals to feats of misbehaviour. He is, it transpires, leader of the groovy outlaws at a Bohemian nightclub called the Cave of Miracles.

He is, in other words, an absolutely modern hero - driven, hedonistic and on the side of right. And if there's any doubt about Maurice Saatchi's subversive intentions in thus portraying the leader of the Opposition, just look at Clopin's sidekick, the orthopaedically challenged Quasimodo. Am I dreaming or are we looking at the features of Mr John Prescott, fresh from scoffing fish and chips on the Cleethorpes strand?

The Rev Donald Reeves, Rector of St James's, Piccadilly, is something of a caution. Along with being the living embodiment of hyper-liberal Christianity; apart from having opened his glamorously-sited London church to every brand of New Age crystal-fancying weirdiosity and allowed market stalls and vendors to flourish in the annexe as if virtually begging some modern-day Christ to wade in and evict them; aside from setting up his church's commercial concerns as a trading company called "St James's PCC" - together with all these bold ventures, Mr Reeves has developed a nice line in explanatory rhetoric.

I have before me a newsletter from Charlbury with Shorthampton in rural Oxfordshire, where the rector has run the local Coffeehouse for a year, with his friend Peter Pelz. It has, Reeves tells us, drawn "mild, friendly curiosity as to why a priest should be running a business". Very understandable. But instead of answering the parishioners' curiosity by saying "To make a profit", or "Because I am a colossal bread-head", Reeves retreats behind a blizzard of exegesis. "The Eucharist has come to mean so much more to me since my immersion in business," he trills. "The bread and wine are not just expressions of the bounty of God, they reflect different ways of production, distribution and exchange. The bread stands also for our exploitation of nature, the bitterness of competition, for business that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. The wine..." But you get the picture. It strikes me as masterly the way Mr Reeves justifies his capitalist endeavours by saying they encourage him to reflect on how awful they are...

A friend has returned from his summer hols in the States, positively fizzing with excitement. One moment he was stuck in the depths of New Hampshire, expecting little in the way of fun and excitement. Then he heard an announcement on the car radio and rushed to the Hampton Beach Casino ("the Great Yarmouth of New England", apparently) to catch the 30th anniversary concert by The Monkees, the ersatz but not unpleasing Sixties popsters created by television executives to cash in on the popularity of The Beatles. My friend watched entranced as the ageing pranksters bounced through "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" and "Last Train to Clarksville" and their big hit, "I'm a Believer". He looked at what the ravages of time had done to Davy Jones, the Shortarse English one, and Micky Dolenz, the Wacky one who was in Circus Boy, and Peter Tork the Dimwitted drummer, and ... But there was no sign of the fourth, the Woolly Hatted one, aka Mike Nesmith. Why wasn't he there? My friend asked some nearby fans and heard the damnedest thing. I haven't been able to check its veracity, so it remains in the realm of bizarre claims: Mike Nesmith, they said, is simply too rich to have to work; he's been that way ever since his mother invented Tipp-Ex. There now. Who says you can't learn anything from diary columns?

Followers of the Tube dispute will have been weighing up all the arguments and counter-claims advanced by London Transport and Aslef: pay percentages below the inflation rate, cuts in working hours, all that. But a completely original factor was introduced this week by Bob Crewe, assistant general secretary of the RMT. At a press conference broadcast on Carlton's London Tonight, Mr Crewe conceded that the shorter working period offered by LT was indeed an attractive prospect, but "Having more time off, my members will actually need more finance for leisure activities," and so they couldn't accept a pay cut. Brilliant, eh? Give us more time off, it argues, and you'll have to pay us more to subsidise it.

There was a time when "leisure" simply meant "not working", and suggested a period of peace and quiet, a stroll in the bosom of nature, a time of reflection, conversation, philosophical musings, even romance - none of them (except perhaps the last-named) activities that involved any expenditure at all. Mr Crewe's ingenious suggestion that every second of one's leisure time should be spent in exorbitantly-priced "activities" suggests a man who has spent too long yanking one-arm bandits in places called "Playland" and "Crystal Rooms".

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