Wednesday: Prime Minister's Question Time, and Tony Blair is struggling to defend the trio of minsiters caught in the eye of the storm, on the day they are already calling Labour's Black Wednesday. It's not looking good: John Prescott has reportedly released his secretary to roam the streets committing rape and murder, Patricia Hewitt has been shouted down at the seaside by an angry audience of foreign criminals, and Charles Clarke has had an affair with the the entire delegate body of the Royal College of Nurses. Or something like that, anyway. I couldn't quite concentrate on the details, because I was too busy watching the way Tony was fiddling with his glasses; pinching the right arm between forefinger and thumb to effect a minor adjustment, a sort of half-Eric Morecambe, if you will. Something about it seemed oddly familiar.
And then it came to me in a flash: our Prime Minister is slowly but surely metamorphosising into Graham Lister. Once you start to think about it, the similarites between the PM and my all-time favourite Vic and Bob creation- Bob Mortimer's officious busybody from the first series of Vic Reeves Big Night Out- are too numerous to be dismissed as coincidence. Other than the glasses thing, Blair shares several character traits with his fellow County Durham resident, including:
- a tendency to outstay his welcome. Blair's increasingly desperate determination to hang on to office against competition from a sharp-suited rival bears strong echoes of Lister's weekly refusal to leave the Big Night Out stage quietly- needing instead to be manhandled from view, shouting 'I'll have you Reeves!' at his perennial nemesis.
-a misplaced trust in the moral character of certain authority figures. Blair's 'shoulder-to-shoulder' stance with the crazed Bush on Iraq, which has befuddled commentators of every political hue, becomes more readily understood when set next to Lister's regular proclamations on his close relationships with 'doctors, dentists and architects'.
-that bizarre foot-stomping gait he has taken to adopting when entering Important Press Conferences. The message seems to be: 'Now don't mess with me, I'm a busy man. Look- I haven't even had time to finish this mug of tea here, or to put a jacket on'. How long before the Blairite lack of formality extends, Lister-style, to making do without the trousers as well?
And neither will it end there. Most pundits have the embattled premier hanging on for the summer conference season, before looking to effect a dignified exit from office early next year. If the demise of Blair's apparent role-model can be taken as any guide however, events may develop much more rapidly than that. Expect the PM to launch a bizarre tirade at the first Question Time after the local elections, branding David Cameron a 'buffoon' and a 'workshy fop', before launching a series of blows at the Conservative front-bench with an oversized frying pan secreted under the dispatch box. The following morning's Guardian will break the scandal of the PM's involvement in unspecified unsavoury shenanigans in a local children's playground, at which point the one-time darling of the masses will retreat in disgrace from public life, never to be seen again.
Remember folks, you read about it here first.