Mark Steel: Saddam? Dodgy peerages? That's just so dull...

Blair will answer a question about Iraq only if he can plug his new line of trainers
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The Independent Online

It looks as if the Prime Minister has lost interest. According to journalists at this week's press conference he refused to answer questions about Saddam or the dodgy peerages, seemed bored and tetchy and was more concerned with his legacy. Maybe he's discovering his lost teenage years. Next week a reporter from the Financial Times will ask him about a possible half per cent rise in interest rates, but Blair will be lying in a sleeping bag texting "Check out BBC news 24 babe well fit no?" to John Reid.

This is all predictable, because Blair sees himself above all as a celebrity. Why should he be bothered about what happens in the long-running series after he's left to pursue other projects? You might as well go to a launch party for Paris Hilton's new range of perfumes and ask her about Saddam's execution. So perhaps Blair should get her to fill in for him, as at least she'd give some sort of answer, if only: "Oh right like, I kinda guess it's like, hey, I'd really hate to be hanged because I've got, like, this really sensitive neck you know. And rope brings me our in a mega-rash."

Then Blair can concentrate on his legacy. He probably dreams of telling Newsnight he'll only allow them to interview him if it's in front of a draped silk curtain and scented candles and that he'll only answer a question about Iraq if he can plug his new line of trainers. At night he imagines himself in America, arriving at an MTV awards ceremony flanked by an entourage of huge black blokes with gold ear-studs, then emerging to tell the crowd, "Yo my people, dis is TBUK representin', allow me to thank God for giving me the talent to support someone else's war, and big up to my fans in da Pentagon, God bless y'all man you crazy."

We know from the document that emerged a while ago that as the carnage accelerates, the priority for Blair's team over the next six months will be to plan their man's big finish. I suppose that's how we'll know the exact date he's going; a press conference will end when he leans across to Jon Snow of Channel 4 and says: "That's all I've got to say on declining fish stocks, but before you go ..."

Then Peter Mandelson will descend on a wire through a puff of dry ice, Geoff Hoon and Ruth Kelly will slide down a pole and they'll all do a big musical number to summarise his achievements that goes: "I devolved a bit of power to a regional assembly/Gave billions to firms to screw up trains and Tubes and Wembley/And when Diana crashed I made my bottom lip go trembly/It's been 10 glorious years."

Blair has always been ridiculously impressed by celebrity, hence his sickly friendship with the likes of Cliff Richard. So now he's preparing to cash in on his achievements and enjoy the celebrity circuit, like Kelly Holmes. Maybe he'll start by trying to get on Strictly Come Dancing or The Weakest Link, but eventually his agent will have to be honest and say, "Look, Tony, they're all saying you don't score well with the target audience. It's still this Iraq thing I'm afraid, I know it was just one little mistake but show-business is an unforgiving game. But hey, I've got you a presenting job on one of those call-in quizzes that come on ITV at 11 o'clock."

Then every night there he'll be: "Come on, I mean you know, it's a good deal, and yes it won't solve all the problems, I acknowledge that but look, it's £100 and all I ask in return is just one missing word. It could begin with B or T or even, let's see, D, so you know, give us a ring."

Even the inevitable book he writes is destined to be pointless, again because his career isn't underpinned with any philosophy but simply the desire to say whatever seems to work for him on that day. Which is why, whenever he's asked to sum up his ideas, he comes out with stuff like: "I stand for fair values in a modern setting. So that fairness, which is a value that emanates from my every core, needs to be modernised not in an old way, which no longer is new, but by reducing the gap between rich and poor in a modern way, by making it wider."

It's why the only evidence of any beliefs beyond what serves his own status relates to his bizarre brand of Christianity, as suggested by the account of his rebirthing experience with Cherie in Mexico in 2001. As The Times reported: "Mr Blair and his wife, wearing bathing costumes, were led to a brick-coloured pyramid and told to bow and pray to the four winds... The Blairs were offered watermelon and papaya, then told to smear what they did not eat over each other's bodies along with the mud. Before leaving, the Blairs were told to scream out loud to signify the pain of rebirth."

And why as Labour Prime Minister he can admire Thatcher, to the extent he's declared his wish she gets a state funeral - which I also think is reasonable, but only if it takes place while she's still alive.