The Sketch: Blowin' in the wind: a prime minister who defies reality

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The Independent Online

At last. The final press conference of the election campaign. And it showed. The Cabinet trooped resentfully on stage in front of the lowest turn-out of journalists in recent electoral history. We were like a provincial matinee where the audience hasn't paid for its seats. Grumpy, distant, indifferent, we weren't even interested in the Prime Minister's morning paper claim that he could "do it" - that is, perform the sexual act - five times in a night. Incredible. At his age.

So, there we were. Sky TV's Adam Boulton leafed through the Daily Mail and cleared his mobile messages while the Prime Minister made his passionate introduction. Alan Milburn was so tired his face-pulling was down to 30 per cent of normal, if normal's the word. John Prescott's elephantine eyes flicked dully round the room expressing as much contempt as he could (quite a lot, by volume). Margaret Beckett didn't say anything, but then she never does. I've got her quote down in my notes as: "Tony Blair doesn't blow in the wind." We don't wish to know that! Kindly leave the stage!

Mr Blair's still on very good form, don't you think? He makes the case, if you're paying attention. It's a better case than anyone else has made. He deserves to have won the argument. He says: "Prosperity and social justice are what have brought people to us." You may not be able to trust a word he says, but the longer sentences often convey a general truth. Prosperity and a sense of social justice are precisely what will win them the election today. They have achieved things valued by every shade of opinion: the minimum wage, for those on the left, and the greatest social inequality since Queen Victoria, for those on the right. They are unbeatable.

Gordon Brown looked a bit pale, but his voice has an attractive new quality. He's relaxed. He shouldn't get too relaxed. The Prime Minister has a good deal of life left in him, by the look of his hand gestures. If you turn your hearing aid off he's still exhausting to watch.

The reality is that you start to disappear as soon as you resign. But Mr Blair has a way of defying reality that has served him well in the past. And he still has the position, the patronage and many things he wants to do. He could be around for longer than we think, as the economy starts to creak and fall around the Chancellor's ears. "Economic stability - we will do nothing to put that at risk," they both say, whenever they can.

They won't have to worry about risk, what with the multi-dimensional economic horror that's coming down the track at us. It is altogether right that Blair and Brown should be re-elected, if only to see what their prosperity and social justice actually costs.