THE SKETCH: Richard and Judy bring out the Hugh Grant in chat- show Tony
The Independent's parliamentary sketch writer and columnist since 2000, Simon Carr was described by Tony Blair as "the most vicious sketch writer working in Britain today". "Poison," said Charles Clarke. In the 1980s he helped launch The Independent, and was a speech writer for the prime minister of New Zealand from 1992 to 1994. His working principle is "Indignation keeps us young."
Friday 11 February 2005
"Sorry about all the cock-ups. The Cabinet's crap. We'll try and do better this year." That wasn't Tony Blair; that was Hugh Grant. Tony Blair doesn't apologise unless it was someone else's fault.
Carping already, I'm ashamed of myself. The great thing about Richard and Judy is that they don't carp. They want to bring out the best in people. It's a very foreign idea to me, I regret to say, but a curiously attractive one when you see it in action.
The Prime Minister seemed entirely unused to the treatment. (You can't blame him). He bared his teeth in that steely, impenetrable smile he does, and his eyes looked shiftily around the set, perhaps checking for devices. You can't be too careful. Traps everywhere. Weapons of mass destruction in the sofas.
He was a very different character from the warm, confident fellow who gave the British people emotional leadership over the death of Diana. Never more glad, confident afternoon television again!
This amiable manner doesn't stop Richard or Judy asking the questions, however. "Knowing what you know now, would you have invaded Iraq?" Richard asked. "Knowing there were no WMD?"
A hostile questioner wouldn't get an answer on that at all. Mr B can be fiercely self-justifying, as we know. But to Richard, it was a case of Yes, Actually. "I would still have continued with it," Tony said. (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him "Tony", given the occasion).
That was a surprise, wasn't it? The whole casus belli was based on Saddam's imminent threat to the West and the PM tells us on Richard & Judy that it wasn't really that important. This sofa government is great, isn't it? You really feel part of the process.
There was the question of flower-giving. His wife had rung up the week before to go live with the news that "Tony" had never given her flowers. Ever. Not for births, weddings or Valentine's Day.
He became intensely uncomfortable at this personal conversation; this made him appear almost human. "I'm very proud of her," was the only glimpse of his private life. The stiff upper lip suits him, actually.
They finished off with a game called You Say, We Pay. That sounded like a pretty good description of Tony's relationship with the tax structure. If he could guess what the caller was trying to describe, money got sluiced into charity.
"Hamster! Courgettes! Sharon Stone!" were among the answers. (Tony had to say the words "Sharon Stone", but you could tell he didn't want to). It meant pounds 6,000 got given to one charity or other. It didn't seem any less logical than current arrangements.
Mark Seddon, page 39
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