Mark Steel: Not all their careers will end in failure

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The Independent Online

It looks like the next stage of the New Labour project is for the leaders to become proper celebrities. Mandelson's doing well so far, with his advert for The Times being impressively putrid, in which he publicises the serialisation of his book by sitting in a camp Gothic pose purring "I am the Prince of Darkness". But it fails in one respect, that the reason he's called the Prince of Darkness isn't because he played Dracula in a film or always wore a cloak, it's because he really is the Prince of bloody Darkness. It's like the difference between one of the Chuckle Brothers doing an advert where he says: "I'm a nutcase I am", and one in which a similar line was said by Raoul Moat.

In some ways Mandelson's advert is even creepier, as he adopts the posture of a girl on one of those soft porn channels, and you expect him to take off his shirt, run a finger slowly down his chest and sigh: "Hello. I like to spin things. Have you get anything you'd like me to, hmmm, spin?"

But Alastair Campbell was ahead of him, the publication of his book propelling him on to game shows and panel shows, where he joined in with scripted gags about false documents like he was a proper celebrity. If he's asked by any other inquiry whether he has any regrets about supporting the war in Iraq he'll say: "Certainly not. For if I hadn't played such a prominent role I'd never have been invited on to Celebrity Come Dine With Me." Then he'll issue a 12-inch club mix dance version of his denial of a sexed-up dossier, and appear on GMTV to reveal how he kept his skin so soft after David Kelly's suicide.

Maybe it's part of the plan for Brown to keep a low profile for a while, as this will make it all the more dramatic when they all get together with Blair for the comeback tour, which will close each night with them doing Blair's speech for Diana as a four-part harmony.

It's almost as if to be truly famous was what they really wanted all along, and all that stuff about New Britain for the many, not the few, was only a means to that end. So they're political versions of Kerry Katona, who probably doesn't think to herself: "I'm so glad I did those adverts, because although I hate publicity, it's so satisfying to know I've informed the public about frozen pizza."

And now they hope they can earn a reputation as being good sports, being able to laugh at themselves, just as Chris Waddle can take a joke about missing penalties, so they don't mind being ribbed about matters such as lying to get a war up and running.

It's lucky we didn't have a similar culture in 1945, otherwise Goebbels would have whispered to Hitler in the bunker: "Don't do yourself in you fool, give all this a few weeks to blow over and re-invent yourself." Before long he'd have been on Strictly Come Dancing, with newspapers declaring: "From goose-step to two-step", and judges saying: "Darling, you glided across that floor. You may have had only ein volk and ein reich but tonight Adolf, love, for the paso doble you've scored acht mein Herr, a glorious eight." Then he'd be on The Weakest Link: Dictator Special, with Anne quipping: "So – who needs a few less torture cells and a few more brain cells?" And Eva could confide in Heat magazine how the defeat in Russia almost made her bulimic, but the Himmlers were always there for her and helped her through her journey.

Maybe the current government have already got their eye on future careers, and they're working out a character to adopt, like wrestlers. So Danny Alexander will start arriving at Cabinet meetings in a mask he refuses to take off, and Liam Fox will dress as a Cherokee called "Mighty Big Society".

But this is one way the BBC could provide the public service role it's desperate to fulfil, by agreeing to allow the ex-Labour leaders on their shows in their jocular celebrity form, but only if a caption in huge letters appears over the top saying "Remember: these people might look like chirpy little urchins but in the real world they are truly, truly reprehensibly truly foul."