Just enjoy it, son, but watch that right foot

Tony Blair has been advised to model his language on sports presenter Des Lynam. Paul Vallely imagines Des's analysis
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The Independent Online
Y'know, Tony. I didn't know whether to take it as a compliment. Or an insult.

I gather that your former communications lady, Joy Johnson, has told you to elbow what she calls "the elaborate and obscure" language you use. And instead, apparently, you're to model yourself on me.

Well, stranger things have happened. As anyone who tuned into a spot of Olympic beach volleyball will tell you. You wouldn't see that at Blackpool - and certainly not at the Labour party conference.

Anyway. New Labour's language should pass the Des Lynam test. That's what Miss Johnson says, in the New Statesman this week.

You have to be able to "generate excitement, unity and ambition", she says. "And yet be capable of reacting to disappointment without despair." Well, you certainly get used to that when Brighton is your team, as mine is.

Seriously, though, she's got a point. I mean, just look at your speech to the last Labour conference. All that stuff about Britain as a "Young Country". It might have conjured up a mystical new Jerusalem to you, but it sounded like a cowboy film to me.

Then there was your pamphlet New Labour, New Life for Britain - sounded more like a long-term prison sentence.

And "The Stakeholder Economy has a Stakeholder Welfare System". Please!

Anyway, it's not just about language. It's tactics too.

I see you were down in the polls yesterday. Your personal approval rating has fallen to its lowest level since you became leader. A bit too much ruthlessness with the right foot, if you ask me.

Tell you what. Don't thrust yourself forward so much. Look at me. Lead sports anchorman. Hardly off our screens - Grand National, Euro 96, Wimbledon and now a fortnight of peaktime Olympic coverage. But who says I'm over- exposed? Be more laid-back, son. Let the others into the game.

Like that John Prescott. He's a bit good. But don't leave him out on his own so much. Bring him into the double act - like I do with Jimmy Hill.

Great straight man, Prescott. Blunt Northern accent and all that. Perfect fall-guy for the old one-two. Like when Jimmy and me were talking about the 1966 World Cup final. And he said: "I was employed even then by the BBC - though in a very minor capacity of course." I was straight back. "You're still in a minor capacity, Jimmy."

And another thing, Tone, when it comes to the election. Don't make it too daunting. None of that stuff you did at the Fabian Society on "Socialism ... based on a moral assertion that individuals are interdependent, that they owe duties to one another as well as themselves, that the good society backs up the efforts of the individuals within it ...."

Team play, that's what you're talking about, son. Team play. So just say that.

Then just tell them: "Glad you've tuned in. You've probably heard there's a general election on tonight. Why don't you just sit back and enjoy it ...."

Then, when it's over, you can come out from behind the sofa.

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