Leading Article: It's quality that counts, not width

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The Independent Online
'I LIKE the man who smiles / Because his cheery ways / Like sunbeams gleaming through the clouds / Can brighten gloomy days.' J W Bryce, a poet now sadly forgotten, might have been writing for Tony Blair. Mr Blair, you will have noticed, smiles a lot. He smiled before Blackpool, he kept smiling through Blackpool, and no doubt, to borrow a famous phrase, he is smiling into his shaving mirror this Sunday morning. Mr Blair has a lot to smile about. But is he wise to do it quite so much?

This, of course, is one for the spin doctors. Conventional spin medicine is big on smiles. Every American president since Coolidge has smiled. Mrs Thatcher smiled; even Clement Attlee could look genial. Neil Kinnock stopped smiling, which was a mistake. But you can go too far: Edward Heath. Mr Blair, though, it should be noted, has two smiles. One is a tic, adopted when entering a room or waiting for a question. This, Desmond Morris tells us - and where would we be without Desmond Morris? - is cousin to the grimace of the chimpanzee and indicates non-aggressive intent, a dangerous thing in the Labour Party. The other is a smile of such full-blown, flashing charm that on Panorama last week it lured a hardline law-and-order lady into hoping for a Labour win at the next election.

The message to the medics is clear: cut out the number ones, encourage the telling use of the number two, and let Clause IV look after itself. Meanwhile, another potential problem: yesterday it emerged that Mr Blair's right ear is bigger than his left ear, more pointed, and pinker. He should console himself with Mr Bryce's last verse: 'I like the man who smiles / He seems to be worthwhile / A mirror of eternal good / His smile begets a smile.'