How do they choose which word to use after a terrorist bomb? It must be co-ordinated, otherwise there might be an argument. The news would report how: "Mr Blair described the attack as 'grotesque', whereas Mr Howard said, 'That's not fair, I wanted to call it grotesque, now I'm stuck with despicable as usual'." And unless they take it in turns there might be a news report that: "The Foreign Office was embarrassed today when Jack Straw said the bomb was barbaric, until he was informed that Charles Kennedy had already said it was barbaric. Mr Straw has apologised and said that, on reflection, it was cruel and outrageous."
Maybe there's a simple code: Wicked - within UK appropriate for one to three deaths. For four to six, move on to vile. However, if bomb is in Europe, wicked will suffice for up to 15 deaths, and in Middle East for up to 120. In Africa, no response is necessary unless deaths reach 1,000, in which case the correct phrase is, "Tut, I don't know, isn't it dreadful."
So Blair has been slightly more imaginative and announced the bombs this week display a battle between the "forces of good and the forces of evil". So to defeat these terrorists we don't need an army or a plan for demo- cracy, we need a bloody Hobbit. Perhaps Blair imagines the conflict is heading towards a grand finale, with him and Bush stood before the spirit of al-Qa'ida, which can transform itself into any shape it likes and booms in a deep echoey voice, "You fools, you could have joined me and together we could have ruled the galaxy. Now I must destroy you." But Bush spits back, "You're inhuman," and Blair adds, "You're an affront to all that is decent." Then they mutter to each other that if they fill their minds with positive thoughts they can neutralise its power, thus saving the planet and winning 10 extra house points from Professor Dumbledore.
Ironically, by raising the stakes to a battle between good and evil, Blair is showing that he'd make quite a good fundamentalist. Maybe his next conference speech will begin: "Mr Chairman, conference, God the almighty, the merciful who dispenses everlasting and irrefutable justice, we meet here in Bournemouth with Britain on a sound economic footing, a tribute both to a vigorous fiscal policy and to the great one who hath bestowed upon us low inflation rates and low interest. Oh, may the spears of his divine vengeance strike down upon those who would relax tight budgetary control by opposing top-up fees for students."
The facile response to the bombings is probably a sign of how they haven't a clue what's going wrong in Iraq. Which also explains Blair's declaration that the bombers are a "small but highly active group". This may well be true. If you're going to use suicide bombers to obliterate chunks of the Middle East, you will probably find you'll need people willing to be highly active. If you have a meeting to plan the blowing up of a city centre, but every time you suggest someone to be the suicide bomber they say, "Oh I'm not doing it Tuesday. I promised the wife I'd decorate the bathroom," your scheme could well fall short of its constitutional aims.
But he can't think what else to say, so he comes out with the "small but highly active" phrase that's usually employed to denounce strikers or anarchist demonstrators. Perhaps his next statement will be that these activists shout loudest and use bullying tactics at the meetings, intimidating the more moderate suicide bombers until they get their own way.
The problem for Bush and Blair appears to be that they believed their own propaganda. They thought their invasion would be welcomed by most Iraqis, and discounted the warnings of chaos. So when the welcome didn't happen and the chaos exploded, they blamed the hiding Saddam. It's worth remembering, whenever they make a pronouncement on what is happening and what will happen next, that when Saddam was captured every statement from the American and British governments declared this signalled the imminent demise of the violence.
If Bush and Blair want to revive their approval ratings they should respond to the situation with honest statements, so the news could report: "Following the latest bomb in Pakistan, Peter Hain said, 'I'm buggered if I know how to sort out that lot'."
Luckily though they've now found a new hate figure, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, because without an evil face at the head of the enemy, the American military grinds to a halt. I hope that when Osama bin Laden resigned the post of leading force of evil, there was a proper leaving party, where all the office workers chipped in to buy him a new camcorder and that they all made speeches about the time they tricked him into thinking there was a Christmas party, and the night he walked four miles for a bottle of conditioner because his beard was matted and he was due on al-Jazeera.