Richard Ingrams' Week: Q. Who is the more potent Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron or John Humphrys?

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The Independent Online

When we hear that Mr Blair is supporting one of his colleagues 101 per cent, it is safe to assume that the colleague will be gone before the week is out.

The Prescott affair is proceeding on almost identical lines to the earlier Blunkett affair. Both men were exposed not just for their love affairs, but also for their business associations.

Both of them insisted that it was all got up by the media, that they had important work to do. But, in the end, Blunkett was forced to quit, and if the same thing doesn't happen with Prescott, then I will eat my hat.

What Prescott, like Blunkett, refuses to recognise is that he is not just discredited - after all, you could say that of Blair or Straw - but that he has become a joke figure. And no amount of talk about moving on or drawing a line is going to change that.

And the difficulty for Prescott is that he was already a joke figure before all this blew up, whereas Blunkett - partly on account of his blindness - had, generally speaking, been given the benefit of the doubt, despite his poor performance as Home Secretary.

What explains the conduct of both men is our old friend the corruption of power. After nine years of Labour government, these people have come to believe that it doesn't matter much what they get up to publicly or privately. The feebleness of the Tory opposition only enforces that view.

What they don't reckon with is the media, which is now a kind of unofficial opposition. Men like John Humphrys pose a much greater and more effective threat than David Cameron.

* I recently received a letter from an official telling me that he would appreciate it if I replied by e-mail. I wrote a fairly rude letter in reply, but with a depressing feeling that in the not too distant future e-mails might be the only means of communication on offer.

An ominous sign is the way that the BBC now gives only its e-mail address when soliciting views of listeners. A warning came this week from the chairwoman of an Ofcom panel, Ms Colette Bowe: "Many of us are not as engaged in today's rapidly evolving communications world as other people. People who are not connected will find themselves increasingly excluded in today's world."

She was addressing people like me who are over 65. Sixty per cent of us do not apparently even understand the world "broadband". She might also have singled out John Prescott, 67, who in his Today interview claimed not to know what blogs are. "I haven't got into all this new technology," he told John Humphrys.

Fear of the unknown, worries about breaking the computer or even "appearing foolish" were among the reasons given by Ofcom to explain the resistance of people like me and Prescott to the internet.

Prescott, however, has perhaps been canny enough to observe how many people have been caught out by the evidence of e-mails while others have had private information stolen, resulting in financial loss. In steering clear of the new technology they may appear foolish, but in reality may be acting very prudently.

A rusting monument to the vanity of politicians

Is there a Curse of the Dome? I ask because almost everyone connected with the edifice seems to become a cropper.

Peter Mandelson was one whose fate was sealed by the Dome and the Hinduja brothers. Now his hated colleague John Prescott, who once memorably compared Mandelson to a Chinese mitten crab, looks like going the same way.

Even the Dome's original mastermind, Michael Heseltine, suffered a heart attack and failed in his ambition to become the Tory leader.

As for the Dome project itself, it was a disaster from the word go. Typical was the chaos of the opening night when hundreds of VIPs were left waiting at a deserted Tube station.

Left to leak and rust on the Thames, the Dome has continued to suck up millions of pounds just to stop it from falling apart. It is a fair bet that current plans by the American tycoon Philip Anschutz to turn it into a concert venue and casino will run into the grass.

There was never any point to the Dome, which was merely an engineer's fantasy. As a building it had no proper purpose.

By far the best thing that could happen to it now would be total demolition. Not only would that save money, it would have a symbolic value bringing home to people not only the vanity of politicians but, especially, the sad failure of Blair's New Labour project.

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