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Injury Time

by | 14th, November 2005

‘HOW many days left? No, not until Christmas – until Tony Blair does something truly radical and leaves before he’s forced out by his Labour colleagues unwilling to spend the next few years drifting along to defeat at the next General Election?

Some say it’s 90 days off. That is, after all, the magic number Tony likes best.

On Monday the arbitrary number of 90 was the one on everyone’s lips. Why this number was chosen from all those others was a moot point.

Some say 90, being the length of football match, would connect with the public. Tony had appeared on Football Focus the weekend before to help further cement this link between politics and the national game.

Perhaps for this reason the footy mad Sun loved 90. Banging up terror suspects without charge for 90 days would save us all. Anything less would be a “VICTORY FOR TERROR.”

The alternative – which looked like being 28 days – was just too awful. It might have been double the current 14 days, but so what? Tony wanted 90. The Sun wanted 90.

And so did Ann Widdecombe, who told the Sun: “If we now end up with 28 days and someone on the 29th day goes out and kills someone, where will that leave us?”

It was hard to say. But perhaps in a similar spot than if we ended up with the full 90 days and someone on the 91st day went out and killed someone, or everyone.

What to do? On Tuesday, Tony had come up with another radical plan. Before terrorists strike, let’s make copies of each of us. And what more useful person to clone than Tony?

The Sun said that Tony was to be interviewed by, er, Tony, or at least an approximation of the leader as portrayed by mimic John Culshaw.

Tony should be warned that agreeing to be questioned by Culshaw doing Tony might not bode well.

Meeting your doppelganger is a prelude to imminent death rather than an invigorated political life. And then there’s the title of Culshaw’s TV show: Dead Ringers.

But before Culshaw can get Tony back on the box, the Mirror heard what Baroness Kennedy had to say to Tony.

“A person’s mental resilience can be broken down over a long period of detention. But the innocent break down as readily as the guilty,” she said. She went on: “And once on the statute books, laws tend to remain there. Terror laws usually expand to other areas of crime. So this law could be used against YOU tomorrow.”

And on Wednesday the Express wanted to ask Tony a question. It wanted Tony to “TELL THE TRUTH”. It wanted to know if Leo Blair had had the single MMR vaccine – which has been linked with autism – or three separate jabs.

The Express said the Prime Minister was under “growing pressure” to “come clean” after Dr Laurence Gerlis , billed as a “top Harley Street doctor” and “personal friend” of the Blairs, had apparently told one of his female patients he “knew for a fact” Leo had been taken to France for the single jabs. (When confronted, Dr Gerlis told the paper he’d heard this alleged fact from another source, and couldn’t remember who.)

If only Tony had had just that to worry about. And while the Express missed the main debate, and wasted its time investigating a little kid’s medial history, the MPs voted.

On Thursday the papers were full of the result on the terror Bill. As the Independent reported, the 90-day detention plan had been rejected by 322 votes to 291. A total of 49 Labour backbenchers had joined the Tories and Liberal Democrats to reject the proposal. Tony was seen “grim-faced and shaking his head”.

Tony had lost. It was his biggest disappointment since realising that Ugly Rumours were not going to be his ticket to fame and fortune. Teflon Tony’s coating had been scratched.

Defeat over his terror Bill had certainly wounded the Prime Minister. As the Telegraph said: “Tony Blair has finally lost the power to get his agenda into law.”

Outgoing Conservative leader Michael Howard, who knows a thing or two about losing, said Blair’s authority had been reduced to “vanishing point”. He said: “This vote shows he is no longer able to carry his party with him. He must now consider his position.”

He’s “ON HIS WAY OUT”, said the Express on its front page. “It’s the “BEGINNING OF THE END?” asked the Mail hopefully. “TRAITORS,” screamed the Sun.

“Congratulations to the rebel MPs,” said the Sun sarcastically. “Their act of treachery is a betrayal of the war on terrorism.”

Was it? Tony Blair and his Government had been defeated, as up to 47 Labour MPs joined the Opposition in voting against the terror Bill. And, in turn, the Sun failed in its efforts to get the law passed.

But surely not giving too much power to the State is a sign of strength not weakness. What happened to “We are not afraid” and all that post July 7 desire to carry on unchanged? Does giving the State more and more power help us? Or is it the behaviour of a country gripped by paranoia and fear?

But, not to worry. It wasn’t really even a defeat. Not really. In any case, as Tony had said when defeat looked likely: “Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing”.

Course it is, Tony. And it wasn’t his fault. As the Telegraph told us on Friday, the police were the losers. They had not lobbyed MPs hard enough on the 90-day plan.

It was Charles Clarke’s fault. The Home Secretary was gracious enough in defeat to hold his hands up. The Independent heard him tell BBC radio: “I regret that I got the judgement wrong in terms of the House and the ability to get that position through, and there are lots of issues to be looked at from that point of view.”

So Tony might be still around in 90-days time. After all, why should he leave..?’

Posted: 14th, November 2005 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink