Short of a Damascene conversion to telling the truth - or avoiding
the lie, which would be something to be going on with - we can now
safely leave Tony Blair’s Government to its inevitable fate. After the
first week in November 1998, it is now bracketed with second hand car
salesmen in the league table of purveyors of credibility. Sooner or
later it will become a joke and eventually it will end up a sick one in
the voters’ eyes.
At present there seems little point in expecting it to be smitten like
Saul. This is a Government which learns nothing from experience. After
the lies and prevarications of the Bernie Ecclestone scandal and the
little affair of Romano Prodi, the ex-Italian Prime Minister whom Mr
Blair approached on Rupert Murdoch’s behalf, we have to add the tortuous
handling of ex-Welsh Secretary Ron Davies’ demise and the Sun’s bitter
’outing’ of Messrs Brown and Mandelson as europhiles.
Word was then handed down that the Prime Minister had carpeted his
Chancellor and Industry Secretary for being off message. But when we
opened our Sunday papers we found Mr Blair leading a new charge into a
single European currency.
’Blair speeds death of pounds ; PM wants the euro as soon as possible’
blared the Express on Sunday, run by Mr Blair’s friend and
euro-campaigner, Lord Hollick. Why should anyone any longer believe a
word this Government says?
After 18 months of slavery to Labour’s spin doctors, journalists I talk
to are thinking it is time they made a dash for the freedom of
This presents the Tories with a chance to shake off their chains
I would be happier for the country if I thought they would take it. All
Governments, as I know from experience, need their Oppositions. This has
had none to speak of so far and its reputation is suffering as a
But can you see the slightest sign of life in the Tories beyond William
Hague’s occasional spark in clashing with Mr Blair at the dispatch
Conservatives in the country are crying out for some hits. Instead, we
learn Tory Central Office is thinking of killing its present messenger,
Gregor Mackay and replacing him with a more expensive model. So far
Andrew Neil, Jonathan Holborow, ex-editor of the Mail on Sunday, and
Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun’s political editor, have been canvassed since
Peter Mandelson is (fortunately) not available.
Frankly, this is putting the cart before the horse. The Tories will not
rediscover their zest until their full-time politicians do. The fault,
dear William, lies not in your spin doctors but in yourselves that you
are underlings. What Britain, let alone Tories, needs is an Opposition
gorging itself on the red meat of Blairite opportunism, inconsistency,
piety and prevarication. Even Mr Campbell might then think twice before
telling his next porkie.