The most important three words in politics. Not my fault

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The Independent Online

When the Prime Minister controlled the information he controlled events, he controlled his party, he controlled the argument. Now the information is out of his control. So, you might suspect if you wanted to, is much else besides.

When the Prime Minister controlled the information he controlled events, he controlled his party, he controlled the argument. Now the information is out of his control. So, you might suspect if you wanted to, is much else besides.

Whether it's a new mode or a new mood, there was an odd atmosphere in the House yesterday. Everyone was waiting for something to happen, and it didn't. Were we witnessing an unbearable moment of dramatic tension, or was it indigestion? The government front bench was interesting for its absences. Gordon Brown, Jack Straw and John Prescott formed a de facto conspiracy by not being there. And though the space left by those three could have been comfortably filled by Charles Clarke he kept out of sight behind the Speaker's chair.

Was he worrying Lords Lawson and Fowler might throw a condom full of anthrax from the Lords' Gallery? Or was it fear of something more toxic, that some of the Prime Minister's new reputation might rub off on him? "I'm pleased to see there are policy differences after all between him and President Bush," Anne Campbell began. Mr Blair beamed, teeth like a row of tombstones. The rest of his party sat behind him, silent. It can't have amused the Labour Party to see their Prime Minister doing what Michael Howard had told him to do last week. He has spoken for Britain. He has stood up for himself. And now he's trying to sit down again without anyone noticing.

Mr Blair's insistence on 100 per cent sovereignty transfer is very different from Mr Bush's view of the matter. To square this circle, Mr Blair will have to draft in the military linguists with full semantic air cover and syntactical attack forces in support. He'll need crack grammarians who can torture language until it coughs up meanings it never meant to. The task force is being assembled. Charles Kennedy tested some of the defences of the new position by comparing last week's answer about who would run the prisons with this week's. Last week it was "absolutely let me make this 100 per cent completely clear in the utterly unambiguous way totally the Iraqis' decision" ... and this week "it's one of the things we'll need to discuss in detail". Yes, in detail, down there where the devil is.

Tony Baldry asked about the fractured relations with the world of Islam, and what his plans were to heal them. "This is a real issue," Mr Blair informed the House. The fracture was the result of "much misunderstanding" and this was the fault of "propaganda". If we didn't pay attention to propaganda then our relations would be fine. Everyone would realise that blowing up wedding parties and taking families prisoner and (let's not make too big a meal of this) leaving ourselves open to criticism was just something we had to move on from. It was process, not substance. Merely a matter of judgement. It was the most important three words in politics: Not My Fault.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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