Richard Ingrams' Week: So Blair leaves in May. Why wait that long?

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The Independent Online

More and more now, Tony Blair reminds me of the captain of a cricket team who stays at the crease so that he can score a century, thereby jeopardising the team's chances of winning the game. Meanwhile, the players waiting in the pavilion are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry.

The only reason for Blair staying at No 10 until May next year is so that he can tot up 10 years in the job - his equivalent of scoring a ton. Because that is the only possible way for him to go out on a high note, as his ludicrous aide Lord Gould is hoping with his talk of a nationwide tour, visits to "iconic places", appearances on Blue Peter etc.

Ten years as PM is what will have to pass as Blair's much coveted legacy. Because with the possible exception of the peace process in Northern Ireland, Blair and Gould can point to no significant achievements on his part. And if there were any others, they would all of them be overshadowed by the terrible disaster of the invasion of Iraq, the effects of which continue to dominate the news along with the growing crisis facing the British Army in Afghanistan.

Nor let us forget the still bubbling scandals of Prescott, the Dome and the sale of honours. You can be sure there will be more on the same lines between now and May next year.

Along the way support for Labour will ebb and the prospect - once unthinkable - of the Tories getting back into power will become more and more likely.

But oblivious of the gathering storm clouds the smiling skipper remains at the crease determined, come what may, to earn his place in the record books.

He knew what was best for us

The BBC's former director of music Sir John Drummond, who died this week, once performed a great service for music lovers, though not the one he had intended. In fact, the exact opposite.

In 1995 when in charge of the Promenade Concerts he introduced into the programme of the Last Night of the Proms a work called Panic by the avant-garde composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle. Politely described in one of Sir John's obituaries as "an abrasive and uncompromising work", it consisted of 20 minutes of very loud, very cacophonous noise without a single trace of melody.

Knowing that the Last Night of the Proms is watched all over the world, Sir John saw the occasion as a wonderful opportunity to introduce the joys of modern music to millions of people who had tuned in to listen to "Land of Hope and Glory".

But instead of responding favourably to Sir Harrison's ear-splitting racket, they were angry and outraged. The BBC's switchboard was jammed by thousands of punters ringing in to complain. The good thing was that those millions of people who watched and listened to it were given a lengthy taste of modern music, something most of them had no experience of, and had decided very quickly that it was not for them.

No one could question Drummond's devotion to music but, like many modern impresarios, he believed he knew best what was good for people.

When I once ventured to criticise his activities at the BBC he reacted very angrily. What right had a mere newspaper columnist to write about music. "Anyone, however ignorant" is allowed views. It was only experts such as himself who should be allowed to comment.

* You couldn't have a better proof of the great gulf that separates scientists from the rest of us than this week's seminar of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. A major row developed when the BA allowed the writer and biologist Rupert Sheldrake to read a paper claiming to have found evidence that some people know who is ringing them up before they answer the phone.

Sheldrake merely pointed out that his experiments had shown this to be the case. But from the reaction of some of the eminent scientists you might have thought that he was proposing that the earth is flat.

The mustachioed fertility specialist Lord Winston expressed particular alarm, while the Oxford professor of chemistry Peter Atkins said: "There is absolutely no reason to suppose that telepathy is anything more than a charlatan's fantasy." (Sheldrake in other words was some kind of crazy con man - a sentiment that might have any libel lawyer rubbing his hands.)

The extraordinary thing about the professor's outbursts is his apparent refusal to recognise a phenomenon that is commonplace. Almost all of us have had the telephone experience while countless others have had premonitions of death or disaster. In the same way, the evidence for ghosts is overwhelming.

The reason for the professor's outrage, I would guess, is that once he accepts such phenomena he would have to admit there were quite a lot of things going on that science cannot explain.

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