The Sketch: Respect for all except 'The Sun' from the listening Prime Minister

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It's the heat, it's the time of year, it's the accumulated pressure and stress of fighting on so many fronts; it's Iraq-rot and 10-year tiredness (maybe even tenure-tiredness), no wonder the Prime Minister is feeling a little less than prime.

It's the heat, it's the time of year, it's the accumulated pressure and stress of fighting on so many fronts; it's Iraq-rot and 10-year tiredness (maybe even tenure-tiredness), no wonder the Prime Minister is feeling a little less than prime. Still, he offered us some unnecessarily silly things and that kept us cheerful for a while: "I'm not going to marginalise Britain in Europe today simply for the sake of it." Glad that's been cleared up? Me too.

Or, before slagging off other parties: "This is not a party-political press conference...". Or (my favourite): "If we joined the euro it would mean lower interest rates for us." Remarks like that at least help us see the point of Gordon Brown.

Mr Blair is re-emerging from his difficulties with one of his useful personalities, the humble one, the engaging one, the listening one. "I think you're right to this extent...", he'll say. And: "I think where you have a point is...". And: "If I can say this respectfully...".

His only real mistake was saying with an astonishing lack of respect to Trevor Kavanagh: "I don't disrespect people such as you." Excuse me! The political editor of The Sun has a constitutional position slightly higher than the modernised Lord Chancellor's. "People such as you"! But to speak infallibly for a moment if I may, this new posture will casually - with contemptuous ease - wrong-foot the Tories. It is an article of faith in the Tory high command that people hate Blair. This is a very stupid idea. No one who matters to the Tories hates Tony Blair. The 10 per cent of voters the Tories need to convert get flattered and praised and "not disrespected" by the PM and they can't find it in themselves to hate the fellow. The Tory right hates him and the Labour left hates him but neither groups need courting by Michael Howard. The only false notes - hang on, that needs rephrasing - the only moments that jarred were when Mr Blair made his overtly partisan points. Unemployment, interest rates, cancer incidence and progress towards a meritocracy under the Tories. Mr Blair claimed the credit for any improvements here for himself. It's not fair. There were large historical tides driving these events and effects and Mr Blair has been carried along by them as much as anyone. The electorate senses this rather than reflects on it. Michael Howard's rhetoric will only rouse us from our state-sponsored torpor when he can rise high above the situation to show us how the great caravan of ideas has been moving over the past two decades. This involves giving Mr Blair credit for his successes (especially those based on Tory ideology). Many good things will come from such an approach. It's honest, so it has the frisson of danger about it. It has the power to re-engage people with politics. It puts the Prime Minister in his place.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

Comments