With three-and-a-bit weeks to go, now seems the time to pose this vital question: when Mr Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and the gang decide to unleash the flammed-up terrorism scare, where will they place it?
With three-and-a-bit weeks to go, now seems the time to pose this vital question: when Mr Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and the gang decide to unleash the flammed-up terrorism scare, where will they place it? Those who saw last week's Newsnight item featuring the American focus groupie Frank Luntz will have been struck by one finding. Mr Luntz went to marginal Milton Keynes to ask floaters for their thoughts, and the issue on which they gave the PM his best score was decisiveness in the face of a security crisis. Doubtless Labour's internal polling shows the same thing, which strongly suggests that a little judicious scaremongering is on the cards. A message from Bin Laden along the lines of his US intervention would certainly help, but Ossie can hardly be relied upon to ride to the rescue. And while sending the tanks to Heathrow for no apparent reason would have visual impact, it lacks a certain freshness. What's needed, then, is a front-page splash calculated to allow an ashen Mr Blair to remind us that, while the intelligence is "non-specific", we live in the face of "a unique threat to our way of life", and that he alone can be trusted to preserve it. But where to plant this potentially fruitful tree? The Times and The Observer are close allies, but at times of electoral emergency No 10 would look for maximum impact, which means a tabloid. The Mirror, recent home to a moving hand-written note from the PM, seems an obvious choice, but that paper already nestles snugly in his pocket. So the smart money is on The Sun, which is suffering an unaccustomed bout of indecision as to whom to support. A world exclusive carrying the byline of Trevor Kavanagh, and the headline: "PM: Don't Panic, Don't Panic ... But Without Me You're Dooooomed!", packed with dark if nebulous hints at an imminent atrocity would shepherd credulous voters back into the fold. We look forward to reading it.
* Speaking of The Sun, I am ever more taken with its political gossip column, "The Whip". Written in a language that has striking superficial similarities to English, this daily banquet hints powerfully at a mischievous late-Edwardian fop elegantly earwigging the juiciest titbits from the alcoves of the Palace of Westminster. The dandy in question, by the way, is a certain Chris Roycroft-Davies, a veteran executive on the paper who took his wedding vows while wearing a Sun T-shirt. Very Chips Channon.
Captivating rumours reach us, meanwhile, of a shock addition to the Prime Minister's inner circle. This one comes with a strong "friend of a friend" flavour. The actor Colin Firth puts it about that Chris Evans has told him that he, Chris Evans, has become a key publicity adviser to Mr Blair. If so, given the press Mr Evans tends to enjoy, it has been a very long time since humanity has encountered an irony that requires less spelling out. A fortnight, in fact - since Jose Mourinho went to Israel at Shimon Perez's invitation to spread the message of peace. Obviously we must ask ourselves whether it's remotely credible that Mr Blair would listen to a foul-mouthed, egomaniacal bully on matters pertaining to his personal image. Then again, you'd hardly have believed that the Blairs would use a convicted fraudster to win them a discount on a lovely pair of Bristol flats.
* In 25 years of banking with the firm I've come across a few curiosities, but nothing like this. Lloyds TSB is pleased to announce its "Culture Club" for journalists... "a vault of culture that provides the hottest tickets each month to the most popular shows, theatre, dance, etc..." It's splendid news that "so far this year we've had a belly-aching night at The Producers, a stunning evening at Carmen and a
barrel of tea tray laughs at Acorn Antiques." If the bank really wishes to ingratiate itself with this trade, it might take note of the recent UK Press Gazette awards do, and think about jettisoning the forthcoming outing to see Simon Russel Beale's Julius Caesar at the Barbican. A subsidised trip to the roughest sailor's pub in Portsmouth (free ruck, paramedical care and accomodation at the nearest nick included) would be more the thing.
Has anyone - anyone at all - seen The Desk, the new media show on BBC4 hosted by Tyler Brûlé? It's been going a while and not a soul has heard a syllable about it. Anyone who volunteers to watch it and be debriefed afterwards is offered a tenner. As for the presenter, he was born Jayson Tyler Brule (echoes here of the film critic Mark Kermode, who was once called Mark Fairee). Not the forename to decorate the masthead of Wallpaper*, perhaps.
* From Jayson Tyler Brule to Mary Tyler Moore and so (I drop this in for fans of Mitchell Symons's hilarious "Connections" feature) to Charles Moore, who popped up on Radio 4's Today programme mourning the pontiff's passing. So often did he drop in the phrase "John Paul The Great" that you came to suspect him less of lionising the late Pope than of product placement. If any neighbour of his in Kent knows of a nearby dry cleaners or restaurant of the name - or possibly a French-owned fireplace shop (Jean-Paul The Grate) - do let us know.Reuse content