Opinion: Restaurant 'chats' make for good politics

Having categorically stated last week that Piers Morgan would not be sacked, I'm very reluctant to make any predictions about the future of Tony Blair. I have made worse blunders though. I once went on BBC Radio Scotland and said that there was as much chance of Henry McLeish resigning as first minister as Scotland had of winning the World Cup. Ten minutes later, he quit.

I am very tempted, given my record as a pundit, to predict Blair will stay on as PM for another ten years in the hope he will have quit by the time you read this column. Instead I've decided to sit on the fence and only say that Brown will replace Blair.

The reason why I'm forced to write for the millionth time about the Blair/Brown saga is because some Scottish hack saw the Chancellor and John Prescott having a chat in a restaurant car park on the way back from the ceremony to commemorate the tenth anniversary of John Smith's death.

Since the said journalist wasn't privy to their conversation, he did what most political pundits do - make it up. We are led to believe that the two men were discussing the future leadership of the Labour Party.

The story had 'legs' for two reasons. The first is that Blair is in some political difficulty, but the main one is that the alleged discussion took place outside a restaurant.

It is the Westminster rule that all great political conspiracies simply must take place in or around restaurants. The most famous of all is, of course, Granita in Islington where Brown and Blair allegedly made a deal about the future succession for the Labour Party. This was all wonderful PR for the restaurant which continues to benefit from all the free publicity.

The fact that the story, itself, was largely nonsense matters little.

This week, there is now nothing we don't know about the Loch Fyne sea food and oyster bar. Thousands of words have been written about the restaurant, mostly by people who have never been there. We are told that Brown didn't even go into the establishment, which isn't surprising - he hates oysters.

I, like everyone else, have no idea what Brown and Prescott were talking about in the car park, but it is inconceivable that these important Labour figures haven't discussed the future leadership at some stage, so why not there? Brown though is determined to do nothing just now to destabilise the PM's position - Blair is doing that for himself.

The Chancellor is desperate not to be seen to stab his old political pal in the back, which is why his aides have been doing all in their power to dampen down the leadership speculation. They will, of course, fail because the day Brown takes over from Blair is getting closer and we all want to write about it.

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