The Sketch: With all his successes, it's no wonder Tony is feeling the pressure

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The Independent Online

Mr Blair made his customary attempt to talk about the domestic agenda yesterday. Considering the successes he's enjoying overseas, it's hard to say why. Even on his own modest report, the elections in Afghanistan have been "... the biggest blow [terrorists] have suffered in recent months". Yes, jihadists have no answer to democracy. Apart from massacre, chaos and civilian slaughter. It's what we have in common, in some sense.

And what about the fact that the vast majority of law-abiding people in Darfur are alive and protected from the modern epidemic of obesity? Yes, and more schools, hospitals and betting shops are open in Iraq than at any time in its history (Year Zero of which started on the day the American tanks liberated Baghdad). How can the terrorists survive this rain of mortal blows to their futile and evil efforts? "They know they can't win militarily," Mr Blair explained. But he also said that we can't militarily either. So perhaps it's down to hearts and minds in the long term; and hearts and brains in the short term. It's a moral calculation, in the end.

"What is the common moral theme running through the government programme," Elinor Goodman asked, rehearsing a list of moral incoherence. Mr Blair isn't very good at questions like this. He said: "The common moral theme is being sensible about things." When asked in Parliament a couple of years ago what his philosophy was, he said: "Well, it's the NHS, isn't it?" If Mr Blair's intellectual and moral infrastructure can be summed up as "being sensible about the NHS" then we're all in much greater trouble than we think.

Anyway, it's clear that the Prime Minister is feeling the pressure. Who wouldn't? He's £2.6m in debt, with his latest property purchase, and he won't say whether Geoffrey Robinson has lent him the money. I hope Peter Mandelson's advising him properly. But some of the rubbish he gave us was really worth anthologising. The Bill to introduce widespread casino gambling in Britain was described as "being 90 per cent about regulating the industry, not deregulating it". It's a Bill to protect children from gambling, you see.

He's talking very quickly now and covering an enormous range. Sometimes you fear he's becoming the maniac you find yourself sitting next to on a long-haul flight. You ask him a question which he ignores by using the words: "The important thing is ..." before going off on a long, therapeutic monologue the only purpose of which is self-justification.

Is the Black Watch to be disbanded, or will it continue to exist? "We'll have a proper debate when the decision is made or announced," he said, his only laugh-out-loud remark of the morning.

Mr Blair is going to allow prior convictions to be presented in court before the jury retires. What a spectacular own goal. If his previous were admissible, he wouldn't be acquitted by a jury of his own Cabinet, let alone 12 good men and true.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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