Politics: The Sketch - The PM has some good news - there's no bad news
The Prime Minister, too, was in a cautious mood, already looking ahead to what sounded like a kind of Marshall Plan for the Balkans. The proposal was partly intended to reward the fidelity of frontline states, but it also contained an acknowledgement that the prevention of future conflict would be far less painful than another cure as tough as this one. He looked enervated rather than energised, as if he finally felt able to let the anxiety show.
That may have been a kind of triumph in itself, but if you really wanted evidence that the Prime Minister might be close to something he could call victory without fear of contradiction, you needed to look at the faces of his opponents in this matter.
Mr Benn and Mr Dalyell looked very gloomy indeed - two peckish birds of carrion who had just noticed that their intended victim was showing signs of renewed health. Mr Benn was so disgusted that he could not even bring himself to look at the back of the Prime Minister's head as Mr Blair answered his questions on the UN resolution. Most of these were quickly dealt with but when it came to the most fantastic of Mr Benn's alternative realities - the notion that all this unpleasantness might have been avoided had we only gone to the UN 10 weeks ago - Mr Blair briefly lost the power of speech.
"No" he said, and then stammered as he tried to surmount the glassy improbability of Mr Benn's conjecture. He started one sentence, then interrupted himself to throw a question back, his voice rising: "Do you know how many UN resolutions there were? Seventy-two UN resolutions against Milosevic. I really do ask him to reflect upon that," he concluded, but Mr Benn shook his head indignantly.
Mr Blair was a good deal more magnanimous than several of his backbench colleagues, who would clearly have preferred to shave Mr Benn's head and lead him along Whitehall in chains while an assembled mob hurled vegetables. Mr Blair responded more in sorrow than in anger, a reaction in keeping with his general caution yesterday. On a couple of occasions there was a brief attempt to hoist him shoulder high, but each time he declined the honour, reminding those present that nothing was won yet, that only when the refugees were back home could any claim to victory be made, and that even then many lives would have been lost.
It was hard not to wonder how Mrs Thatcher would have handled this moment, at the shrill combination of vindication and vindictiveness with which she would probably have greeted the confusion of her enemies, within and without. Mr Blair, who can justifiably claim credit for whatever good can be salvaged from the war, behaved with a becoming dignity.
But it wasn't only Kosovo, naturally, and it wasn't only dignified. With the European elections only a day away (yes, honestly), Mr Hague was anxious to represent the Prime Minister as a man in chains himself, cowed satrap of the continental potentates. He had some fun with recent European statements on the euro, and then Mr Blair had some fun in return. Mr Hague's new ambition to renegotiate the Treaty of Rome, he pointed out, would need agreement from all 14 member states. "Name one!" he shouted, "Name one that supports that position!". Oddly enough, during the silence that followed he looked unequivocally triumphant, yet this is a battle that has hardly even begun.
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...