The Third Leader: Light government

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The Independent Online

Generous applause, please, for the shining example set by the Prime Minister: the light bulb outside Number 10 has been replaced with an energy saving one. Special credit is owed to Mr Blair for taking this bold step, as his advisers must have given urgent consideration to the negative image and metaphor opportunities this change might present.

Low energy, for example, is not something with which the Prime Minister would ordinarily choose to be associated. And they can be pretty dim at times. Against that, though, the Prime Minister can point out that the energy savers, in contrast to the old incandescent bulbs and most Opposition activity, generate more light than heat.

The real danger for Mr Blair in all this, however, and what makes it a calculated gamble on his part, is the possibility that some wiseacre will seize his chance to trot out a lot of guff about how many prime ministers it takes to change a light bulb. So here goes.

1. One, but he will need a comprehensive dossier compiled using the latest intelligence services research techniques (I recommend www.howtochangealightbulb.com) showing that the change is vital and doesn't require a specific UN resolution. 2. One, but he will need a team of top aides to spin the ladder and explain about light bulb targets, and a senior High Court judge will be required for the inquiry.

3. Two, one to put the new bulb in, and one to pay tribute to the old bulb. 4. Many more under a Conservative government. 5. None, Mr Berlusconi will pay you providing it's done quietly. 6. What light bulb? 7,8,9: Classified. 10. God knows.

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