It's a funny old world for Tony Blair, and no mistake

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The Independent Online

"The funny thing about this Hutton business," said the man with the dog, as he settled down with his pint, "is that you see people getting up in Parliament and banging the table and saying that there is one question the Government refuses to answer! And I think to myself, 'No, he's wrong - there are dozens and dozens of questions the Government refuses to answer!'"

"Like what?" said the lady with the green hairdo, still drinking her whisky macs.

"Like, when is Tony Blair going to resign?"

"Never," said the green lady. "That was easy. Next one!"

"All right, put it another way. If Andrew Gilligan made a bit of a mistake about David Kelly, why was it any more or less of a mistake than Blair's misunderstanding of the intelligence about the WMDs and the 45-minute preparation and all that stuff?"

"Are you comparing Blair to Gilligan?" asked the Major, getting whisky over his moustache.

"I certainly am. Except that the only death you could blame on Gilligan's mistake was Dr Kelly's, whereas if Blair got it wrong about the WMDs and all that, he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis."

"It's a waste of time even discussing it," said the resident Welshman. "Waiting for our Mr Blair to change his mind or own up or admit fault over anything is a fruitless task. He sometimes gets as far as saying, 'Mistakes have been made.' He never gets as far as saying, 'I made a mistake.'"

"He always looks so charming and reasonable," said the green lady. "Whatever he is talking about, he is always smiling, as if you are a foreigner and he's showing you the way."

"I think everyone is taught to smile these days," said the Major. "I've noticed it on programmes like Newsnight. Even when Jeremy Paxman is really laying into them, they always smile in response, though you can often tell they're boiling with fury underneath. My theory is that whoever coaches people for telly appearances tells them to 'Smile, Smile, Smile!'."

"You couldn't tell from Blair's expression that he's a warmonger, could you?" said the man with the dog. "In his time at Downing Street he's got us into three military operations: Kosovo, Afghanistan and this one. Whereas Maggie Thatcher, who was always supposed to be the one for confrontation, only ever got us into the Falklands, and that's because we were attacked. Not that she ever smiled much."

"Of course, Blair has only ever dragged us into wars on the Americans' coat-tails," said the Welshman. "At least the Falklands War was an all-British production. We think of the Gulf Wars as being at least co-British, but they're not - they're like those films which you think are British because they've got Hugh Grant in them, and then turn out to be 100 per cent American-controlled. Bit depressing, really."

"Not so depressing as the prospect of going through another inquiry," said the green lady. "We all enjoyed Hutton so much that now we've got Butler coming up. Don't we ever learn? These inquiries never answer any questions. And yet we always clamour for another one."

"You know what I think?" said the Major. "I think we ought to find these weapons of Saddam's that were supposed to be capable of being ready at 45 minutes' notice, and give them to the Ministry of Defence for them to copy. My God, if the MoD could have anything ready in less than six months!"

"Or give them to our railways to copy," said the Welshman. "It would be nice to have a few trains ready at 45 minutes' notice."

"That's where Blair is so different from Mussolini," said the man with the dog.

This was such an unexpected remark that we all turned to him for explanation.

"Mussolini invaded Abyssinia," he said, "and Blair invaded Iraq. So far, so similar. But Mussolini made the trains run on time. That is quite beyond Blair."

We all fell silent, trying to work out if this was a fair comparison or not. By the time the conversation had resumed, it had mysteriously got on to Alex Ferguson and racehorses instead.