The Sketch: How a little red book sparked surge of emotions

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The Independent Online

"Can I say to the people at the back," our glorious leader addressed himself to the cadre of party workers planted in the audience. They'd just broken into laughter over a base of sustained chuckles cross-fading into applause, "this is the press day, there's no need for that." The young Maoists fell abruptly silent. That made me laugh.

"Can I say to the people at the back," our glorious leader addressed himself to the cadre of party workers planted in the audience. They'd just broken into laughter over a base of sustained chuckles cross-fading into applause, "this is the press day, there's no need for that." The young Maoists fell abruptly silent. That made me laugh.

Actually, it made me bark harshly to indicate laughter. At the end of the occasion, the Cabinet held up the little red book with its five-year modernisation plans, and prompted more spontaneous applause. It must have been a surge of emotion. At least, the workers clapped their hands loudly to indicate a surge of emotion.

The stage management had a game-show quality that is gaining popularity in modern churches. The launch was held in a liturgical drone that you expect from the Church of England. Some of the terms were different but the plainsong was numbingly familiar ... "enterprise celebrated in every community to make Britain a beacon of three-year budgets competing on the basis of excellence without elitism at 3 per cent a year after inflation ... " they go on like that indefinitely.

Patricia Hewitt handed over to Ruth Kelly and they changed key but it is very difficult to say anything else about it. It's amazing how many people vote, in fact.

On the other hand, it's also true the range and detail of the Labour manifesto is entirely governmental. The 200-plus commitments are open to derision and I'd be failing in my duty if I didn't reproduce commitment 137 that consists, in its entirety, of "High-street chiropody, physiotherapy and check-ups" and commitment 226: "Convict those planning terrorist activity". But if the document was to give the impression they are able to do something about high-street chiropody (whether nationalise it, prohibit it or put chiropodists in prison for their vile trade) it succeeded. As the Tory case falls to pieces, Labour is increasingly able to persuade us they can penetrate every cranny of our lives, doing things.

And Gordon Brown? The heir apparent kept realising he was smiling and would abruptly stop. That's always very funny.

If you're voting Blair to get Brown you're in for a shock. Mr Brown is like the biblical king who gave an unexpected inaugural speech: "My father chastised you with whips," he said, "but I" pause for optimistic reflections, "shall chastise you with scorpions!" So Blair's right. The changes are irreversible. The 1997 parti-coloured, quasi-Thatcherite settlement is as profound and as embedded a change as in 1945. Am I the only person in Britain to believe what Tony Blair is saying any more?

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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