The Sketch: Ten more years of Blair the infallible

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The Independent Online

Ten years on. Ten years of Tony Blair. You know we've got another 10 years of Tony Blair? You may think the evidence for this patchy and sporadic and contradicted by evidence that says exactly the opposite. So it's more than good enough.

Ten years on. Ten years of Tony Blair. You know we've got another 10 years of Tony Blair? You may think the evidence for this patchy and sporadic and contradicted by evidence that says exactly the opposite. So it's more than good enough.

Michael Howard tried to pay the Prime Minister a self-deprecating compliment, but Labour wouldn't listen (his self-deprecation takes work away from those who need it more). He said how 10 years of Mr Blair's leadership had been "marked by deep frustration for the ambitions of my party". At the word "frustration" the Labour benches howled so loudly the compliment was lost. A month ago he could shut them up by looking at them in his Dark Lord way. Now they treat him like a stage prop. Mr Blair has worked him out, and everyone in Parliament knows it.

So when Mr Howard angrily denied that he is going to cut the police budget by £1bn, Labour didn't bother with jeering of any quality. When the Prime Minister pressed the point, Mr Howard explained he was going to cut bureaucratic waste by £1bn and put the money into bobbies on the beat. Then the scoffing was so poor it might have been outsourced.

Cut waste and put it into services? They mocked this as if it were cruel, stupid and impossible. Yet this is exactly the policy they are proposing themselves. If Mr Howard can't win by recommending policy on which the Government is going to fight the election, then ... words fail me. Especially handbag.

Tony McWalter has been trying to reprise his clever question of some years ago when he asked for a summary of the Prime Minister's philosophy. Mr Blair replied to that in a way that would have defeated Wittgenstein: "Er, it's the NHS, isn't it?" he said. This time the question was: "Is the Prime Minister confident that mechanisms for dealing with his fallibility are sufficient?"

It was good enough to create one of those silences the House likes. "I am absolutely confident," Mr Blair began, "that the mechanisms for dealing with my fallibility," and how was he going to finish that sentence? "are infallible." It wasn't clear what he was getting at, but in the spirit of his 10-year celebrations I took it as a pretty compliment to Mrs Blair. So you see how complete his dominance is. He can now conduct a marital conversation from the floor of the Commons without interrupting his rhythm.

So great is the dominance that he even said: "I defy anyone to look at the intelligence and not come to the same conclusions we did."

The Tory strategy for getting into government before 2015 is quite cunning. They are waiting for a giant hand to come out of the sky and take Mr Blair home. It's their best strategy yet.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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