Warm enough for Middle England but too hot for Mr Blair

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The Independent Online
TONY Blair has decided not to go to the Chelsea Flower Show this year and, frankly, you only need to visit the place to see why. The show is simply not on message. The spin doctors would not approve. It is not cool. It is not even hot. It is, simply, middling as in Middle England.

Forget the hype that says Chanel has made Chelsea cool this year with its small and perfectly formed garden. You only have to take a stroll round the place. I could not find Karl Lagerfeld at all. Instead, I met two women wearing togas (not Chanel). Their names were Natasha and Joanne and they were wearing bay leaves in their hair. Cool? I asked. "Nice weather!" they cried. No, not cool as in hot. Cool as in, you know, new Labour/new cool? Their minder, a young man from Interflora, thought so: "Chelsea is much more modern now. You are much more likely to see people in leather trousers and piercings."

Piercings? Dream on. The only thing that was pierced yesterday at Chelsea was a hat.

Next door was a very un- English shrine to bougainvillea that was so hot we all needed shades. There I found Tim Miles who was with "with floral committee C". So, was Chelsea cool? "It terms of look or colours?" he asked. "Well a few years ago there were lots of pastels and it got to be a bit boring."

Right. Mr Miles suggested I ask "Christo", who turned out to be Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter. "Cool?" he said. "I've been absolutely frozen in this marquee on many occasions." He refused to be drawn on the political question. "But it's good to see bright colours."

Then I spotted a man who really would know. "I would have thought that Chelsea is the epicentre of cool and always has been," said Alan Clark, Tory MP and raconteur, as he headed off, jacket slung over his shoulder, to meet the Queen. Perhaps Tony should have a rethink.