Mark Steel: The Blairs: a working-class family

'All right, Cher, leave it babe. Go and get yer 'air done, princess. OK, Gordon, carry on'
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The Independent Online

Cherie has missed an opportunity. That was the closest the Blairs have ever got to being a working class family. Instead of denying it, she should have carried on like a drunk sister-in-law at a wedding, standing right underneath Brown yelling, "Do you hear - you're a fucking LIAR." Then Tony could have intervened by growling "All right Cher, leave it babe. Oi, doll, here's 10 grand, go and get yer 'air done, princess. OK, Gordon, carry on."

This is how to reconnect the masses with politics. The television coverage of the conference would have got 20 million viewers if it had been presented as a special episode of Neighbours from Hell, with Cherie yelling at Gordon "See him - he poisoned my fucking fish. You're just jealous mate cos you're not Prime Minister, well you can stick yer fiscal prudence up yer Scottish arse."

Then Tony did his bit about Brown, which went something like, "I've known Gordon over 20 years, and he's like a son to me. There ain't nothing I wouldn't do for him - nothing. I'd tear my own liver out for that bloke." So that's when Cherie should have been up again, spitting and shouting at Brown "Clap louder than that, you ungrateful slag," swinging her arms until she was restrained by a couple of those security guards dressed in black with walkie-talkies they have on Jerry Springer.

Instead, one minister after another made pointless predictable speeches such as "When I look around my constituency, the achievements of this government in regenerating our cities are all too obvious. In 1997, more than 90 per cent of Huddersfield was septic marshland, inaccessible because of methane and alligators. Now it's the site of a giant branch of Texas Homecare."

Then came Blair's brilliantly performed vacuous speech, in which he could have said anything and been cheered in the same way. He could have announced that in recent months he's carried out a series of gangland murders. But he'd have followed it up with, "And some people in the party and the country don't agree with drive-by shootings, I respect that. But now is the time to draw a line under it and move on."

Then 20 junior ministers would have rushed on to the news to say whatever their views on the leader wasting people with sawn-off shotguns, this was not the time to raise the issue as the most important thing at this moment is unity. Then Gordon Brown would have issued a statement that he too would continue this policy, indeed, taking it further by joining a Yardie drugs cartel.

While hundreds of delegates explained how marvellous they'd been, no genuine debate was allowed on anything, not on why turnout is at its lowest level, or on the decision to renew Trident, or on Iraq. They might as well have had the thing chaired by one of the delegate's mums, who could have opened the conference by saying, "Well it's a lovely week for it and the weather's been absolutely gorgeous. So let's not spoil it by mentioning religion or politics because that ALWAYS causes a kerfuffle. Honestly, men, they'd argue about anything."

And this despite the fact the conference has taken place in the week that an investigation by the intelligence agencies in the US declared the occupation of Iraq has officially led to more terrorism than it could possibly have stopped. And in which it was announced that more than 6,000 civilians have died as a result of the war in the last two months. And in Afghanistan the heroin crop is greater than before we went. And it was announced by the United Nations there is now more torture taking place in Iraq than under Saddam.

This is an achievement of pure genius, as spectacular as that boyband who did a version of an Elton John song and made it even worse. When Blair was justifying the war by reciting the levels of torture under Saddam, no one realised he meant Saddam wasn't doing enough.

And the man responsible for Britain's involvement is given a standing ovation, even applauded for saying he would try his best to bring peace in Lebanon, when he was one of the only world leaders who supported bombing Lebanon.

Maybe I missed other delegates who boasted, "When I look around Lebanon the achievements of this government in regenerating the cities are all too obvious. In 1997, 90 per cent of Beirut was houses and shops. Now it's inaccessible marshland and rubble."

All this carnage, yet the only hint of disagreement is a personal spat from Cherie, and she even denies making that. Whereas the really odd thing about Gordon Brown is his attitude towards the defining issue of Blair's rule is "All that lying about weapons of mass destruction, and those civilian deaths and the torture and chaos - it's not fair - it should have been ME doing all that."

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