Come on, be honest. You'd have loved to see Tony Blair's farewell tour, wouldn't you? You'd have laughed yourself sick, bought the souvenir t-shirt, and had a big dumb grin on your face every time you had a cup of tea out of your 'Never Apologise, Never Explain Tour 2007' commemorative mug. Admit it, part of you is sad that the plans were leaked to the Daily Mirror this week because it's now unlikely the event of the century will take place.
We'd urge you to read the Daily Mirror's report on the leaking of Tony's 'Farewell Memo' - you'll smile for days. 'He needs to go with the crowds wanting more. He should be the star who won't even play that last encore,' was a particularly nice sentiment. If only they'd made that rhyme work properly, it could have been put to a squealing rock soundtrack ( we're thinking the theme from Thundercats) to be played as he strides on stage at each of the carefully picked venues.
'His genuine legacy is not the delivery, important though that is, but the dominance of new Labour ideas...the triumph of Blairism,' was another line. It's the ultimate insult to everybody who got off their arses to vote for the swine. If ever there was a sentence that better sums up the Blair years we've yet to hear it. It certainly trumps the last good one, from Blairite megaphone Stephen Pound MP, who on the subject of Blair talking about God on the Parkinson show said: 'If this was anything to do with trying to appeal to the electorate, he wouldn't be so excruciatingly honest.' Because the last thing we want from a Prime Minister is that he be 'excruciatingly honest' with the electorate, eh?
The 'triumph of Blairism' tells us why we've had so many crap ideas, sorry, *eye-catching initiatives*, trotted out in the newspapers only to never hear of them again. Frogmarching drunks to cashpoints. The vote for 16-year-olds. The Euro. WMD. The list is endless. Having the ideas was clearly enough.
According to this philosophy, announcing plans to cross the Atlantic in a chocolate zeppelin would have been a 'triumph of Blairism'. When you think about it, Tony doesn't need his farewell tour. Again, under the legacy of Blairism, merely expressing the idea of having one is a victory. How far this philosophy would get anybody with even a rudimentary grasp of reality is debatable. Try phoning your boss one morning and saying 'I have an idea about coming in to work today but its delivery is not as important. That is my triumph.'
It's said that Blair didn't have a hand in the memo's creation or even see the thing. It was written by courtiers who know, or *think* they know, the Prime Minister's mind. We suspect the hand of the berk who, pondering the drop-off in Labour support during the General Election concluded, 'people were angry with Tony because they love him so much, and are angry because they think he might go'. Either him or Armando Iannucci.
This industrial strength sense of denial when it comes how to he's truly regarded is so strong it's bordering on a superpower. If Blair's circle were to urge him to step out of a top floor window, telling him, 'you will not fall', you suspect the denial would be enough keep him suspended in mid air. Fifty-one per cent of voters want him gone this year according to a Times poll. 'Time is not an unlimited commodity,' says the memo. It's right. There's so little time, so many people left to alienate.
There are, however, jewels of brutal honesty hidden in the tall grass of delusion. Take the choice of television appearances mooted in the memo. 'Songs of Praise', no doubt to cement Blair's reputation as a good Christian and because he hopes it'll go in his favour when he gets to the Pearly Gates. 'Blue Peter', presumably to catch the parents watching tea-time telly. And Chris Evans' radio show, either because both he and Blair have an overlapping constituency of lager-fuelled boors or because Evans is one of the few 'Cool Britannia' faces (remember them?) who've stuck with Blair.
It's a tacit admission of Blair's intellectual standing. No head to head with John Humphrys. No 28 hours of soul-searching, hard fought interviews recorded with David Frost, in the footsteps of disgraced former US president Richard Nixon. Blair's always been one to avoid sitting down with Jeremy Paxman when there's a space going begging on Richard and Judy and TV-AM's sofas, so we shouldn't be surprised.
There's a saying that goes, 'you can spend your life trying to be popular but the attendance at your funeral will largely depend on the weather'. And the great grey, brooding cloud threatening to rain on Tony's parade, is of course, the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. As identified in the memo: 'There are specific issues which can provide opportunities and threats. They are: GB's reaction... the more successful we are the more it will agitate and possibly destabilise him....'
It's as if these two both see themselves as Blanche in 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?', being mercilessly tortured by her sister Jane who is driven by petty jealousy turned to madness. Yet, as the BBC's Nick Robinson said this week, with all the shouting and flouncing, the fight between them is essentially trivial:
'It is perfectly true that unlike the Tories in 1990 there is no ideological split in the party. But there is another split which could - and I do emphasise could - be as damaging. It's the split between Brownites and Blairites which has been festering for a dozen years ever since Tony won and Gordon lost the Labour leadership. It's more about personal animus than policy difference but no less poisonous for that.'
It's not about policy or intellectual struggle. It's a petty, festering rivalry. God knows we can be obsessed with the Blair-Brown apocalypse, but in a moment of clarity even we'll admit that the fight for 10 Downing Street is all so pathetic. Although Brown and Blair see it as such, it truly lacks the drama of, say, the life and death struggle between Wellington and Napoleon or the epic rivalry of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It's less the 'Thriller in Manila' and more the 'Cabaret in SW1A'.
They're not arguing over the rights or wrongs of privatising the NHS or bombing brown children or marginalising Muslims, they're arguing about who should get the credit for such. It's like when Paul McCartney changed some of the credits on the Beatles' songs from 'Lennon and McCartney' to 'McCartney and Lennon'. You still wrote the bloody songs, McCartney, you twat.
Blair and Brown could, you imagine, have the same row over a spilt pint or who ate the last Rolo. Thank God they don't share a communal fridge or else the headlines would be full of stories along the lines of 'Allies of the Chancellor accused the Prime Minister this evening of finishing Gordon Brown's milk despite it being clearly labelled as such.'
We can probably take it as read that Gordon wouldn't have been in front of the stage throwing his knickers at Tony as the Prime Minister took to the stage during his farewell tour. Bottles of piss, maybe. Speaking of which, Blair going out like 50 Cent did at the Reading Festival a couple of years back. Now that would be something to tell the grandchildren about.