When it comes to trouble, Mum's the word

How often, having done something truly idiotic, did we automatically wail 'My mum's going to kill me?'
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The Independent Online

Poor Euan Blair has done a great deal of public growing-up while his father has been Prime Minister, and though we naturally have a lot of sympathy for him in this difficult situation, one of the enjoyable and rather touching aspects of his public embarrassments and unfairly-exposed humiliations is how very ordinary they are. Some of the embarrassments, true, are caused by his parents, when exposing the poor mite to photo-opportunities on holiday, or buying him a flat in an unusual way, thereby exposing his living arrangements to the scrutiny of the world - and I feel that few 18-year-olds want it to be known beyond a doubt that the flat they live in was bought for them by a doting mummy and daddy.

Some, however, are simply the usual adolescent adventures, and anyone with any memory of their own youth will be thankful that they did not have to endure adolescence with the attendant pressures of the tabloids chronicling the fact that at the age of 16 you got hopelessly drunk and then were sick in Leicester Square.

The latest of Euan's adventures would move anyone who didn't have a heart of stone. It is just one of those things that kids his age always seem to end up doing; in his case, poor boy, the whole thing inevitably ends up being described in detail in the newspapers. I'm sure he thinks it monstrously unfair: after all, he didn't ask his dad to become Prime Minister, but all the same he can't prang the car without newspapers taking the opportunity to lecture him about responsibility and road safety. As kids that age are fond of saying, it's just not fair.

Simon Hayden, who runs a taxi firm in Egham in Surrey, said that he was driving along a straight stretch of road when a Ford Focus pulled out from a junction in front of him without apparently looking first. Mr Hayden went into the side of the car, causing minor damage. The other driver admitted responsibility at the scene, before giving his name. Since he had no ID on him, and said he was in the process of moving house, the police were called to the scene. Mr Hayden recognised him when he heard the name, and asked if he was one of the Prime Minister's children. Euan admitted it, but here is the splendid detail supplied by Mr Hayden: "He was walking around in shock saying, 'My mum's going to kill me.'"

I think we can all readily associate with that sentiment. How often, when we were young, having done something truly idiotic and catastrophic, such as letting the family rabbit escape, having a party in our parents' absence which got appallingly out of hand, ending up drunk and penniless 40 miles away, or borrowing the car and crashing it, did we automatically wail "My mum's going to kill me?" And, alas, however old you get, the idea that when you do something wrong "My mum's going to kill me for this" never quite goes away.

Recognisable and human though Euan's cry was, there is something immensely comic about his first instinctive worry, that it was his mum and not his dad who was going to have something to say about this. In recent weeks, we've certainly seen Cherie take charge in that relationship, and take responsibility for getting the Prime Minister out of trouble. Her game response, when the Chinese so blatantly set them up and asked Blair to sing them a song, was altogether masterly, as was her instant choice of exactly the right, harmless song: you can play endlessly the game of which would have been the wrong Beatles song to choose, whether "Yesterday" ("All my troubles seemed so far away"), "Taxman", or, perhaps worst of all with its Brownite overtones, "Dear Prudence". There, you saw a woman in control, and no one can doubt that whatever comes out of the unholy Kelly/Campbell mess, Cherie is going to get her way just as she did over Carole Caplin.

Euan's instinctive comment, and something even more startling, the intimate photo-shoot and interview with Cherie in Marie Claire, reveals what we all suspected, where the power really lies in that household and who has a grip these days on "the project". All the same, I'm not entirely sure that we ought to feel quite comfortable with any of this, or altogether to admire the evident domestic and political purposiveness of someone who we haven't elected, or, more precisely, what it starts to tell us about the man we have elected.

I keep trying to imagine what one of Attlee's children, or Churchill's, or Wilson's would have said if they had caused a taxi driver to drive into the side of their car by inattention. Or, most obviously, what one of Mrs Thatcher's children would immediately have wailed. You can bet your bottom dollar, in that last case, that neither of them would have said "My dad's going to kill me." We all knew, and trusted, where power lay in that relationship, and it says something about the withdrawal of trust that no one is remotely surprised that Euan's first thought was what on earth his mum was going to say.

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