Major's/Redwood's triumph/disaster

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Note: this article had to be written and delivered before the news of the Tory party leadership contest result came through, so I have had to hedge my bets to a certain extent. Readers are asked to ignore options that do not apply.

So. We now know that the result of the Tory leadership contest is a clear victory/indecisive draw, and that we are relieved/doomed to have got it all over with/face yet another bout of politicking and manoeuvring. Many of us said that Mr John Major could not possibly win on a first ballot. It now has to be admitted that we were absolutely wrong/spot on.

But one thing at least is certain. In entering the lists against John Major, John Redwood was dismissed by many people as a no-hoper. It has now become clear that he was wiser than/just as stupid as everyone said, and that his intervention has only served to strengthen Mr Major/destroy the Prime Minister. In the aftermath of the contest Mr Redwood can now expect to be ignored/courted by the power brokers who still to this day run the Tory party/country, and that in the ensuing cabinet shuffle/second ballot, he will emerge as a force to be reckoned with/discounted. In the days to come, it is not too fanciful to suppose that we may see Mr Redwood as a future leader/looking for a job outside politics altogether.

We, personally, always thought there was something rather heroic/suspicious about Mr Redwood, and the mass of Tory MPs seem to have responded to this quality in him. Of course, it was always said even by his admirers that most of those who voted for Redwood were registering a secret vote for Portillo/Heseltine, but we can safely shake Mr Redwood by the hand now and say to him fervently: "Well done!"/"Get lost!"

And what of the future? As Mr Major looks into his own personal political destiny, he must be saying to himself at this juncture: "Well, at least I have won/tried. I am now premier/out on my ear. I have no option but to carry on/resign. I stood up to my tormentors and, as I hoped/feared, they have caved in/given me a resounding raspberry. My bold action has been totally vindicated/has blown up in my face like a badly primed booby trap, and now I can look out of my window and see the cheering crowds/the car waiting to take me to Buckingham Palace to hand in my resignation."

The one person who has gained out of all this is Tony Blair/Michael Heseltine. As he looks at a Tory party with its new-found unity/fragmentation, he must be thinking to himself: "The prize is mine for the taking! With Mr Major now safely back in power/out of the way, all I have to do is wait for the fruit to fall into my lap! That will be one in the eye for Portillo/Prescott!"

But perhaps this is looking too far ahead. In the immediate days to come, there are other things to think about, such as the second ballot/the Wimbledon final. Favourites come and go. One day a man is cock of the roost, the next day he is filling out his job application form. One day Hugh Grant is the nation's most favourite Englishman, even though his image is that of a public school wimp. The next moment he is being summoned to the headmaster's study and being told that he is being expelled for heinous offences, and suddenly the nation's new favourite Englishman is a hitherto unknown chap called Greg Rusedski who is actually Canadian, but that is the way the weathercock of public fancy turns about.

So it is with politics. One minute Mr Major is undisputed leader/fall- guy. The next minute he is everyone's Aunt Sally/hero, and he has emerged from the battle a smiling victor/dead man. Now the path before him is clear/rock-strewn indeed, and he has no option but to carry on triumphantly/finally limp off the political stage and lick his wounds in the privacy of his own home. We may have criticised Mr Major in the past. We may have suggested that his presence at No 10 Downing Street had all the clout of a scarecrow in a field full of vultures/a Burton's dummy. But if one thing has become clear in the past 24 hours, it is that his party does not agree/demur. Well, that is their decision and frankly we find it courageous/sickening.

Some foreign commentators have found it little short of amazing that the choice of the country's leader should be left to a handful of MPs/300 pompous prats. Others have found it amazing that none of the candidates was interesting/female. It has even been said that if a general election had been called, the result would have been very different/exactly the same. Maybe, maybe not. But one thing has to be said. Whatever else happens, the amazing/dreary happenings of the last 24 hours will be seen in retrospect to have been a historic turning-point/total non-event.