We at The Friday Thing remember May 1997 like it was yesterday. If we weren't so darned reserved and horribly sober, we would have been dancing in the streets as New Labour swept into Downing Street, as the discredited, inept, tainted Major government was swept aside on a national wave of enthusiasm. The cheers ringing across town as Portillo was cast out on his arse by Stephen Twigg will live long in the memory. Cool Britannia, indeed.
We dare say though, that a fair few of those Cool Britannians are now hiding, embarrassed behind their pint pots, wondering, perhaps, that the whole thing was a dreadful nightmare. All those pop stars, writers, actors and comedians at *that* Number Ten reception must have known, even then, that the day would come when all and sundry would point at them mockingly and scream the word 'Waaaaanker!'
We ask then, as an aside, how many of them might turn up to a similar Cameron-hosted function? And the answer, we suspect, would be 'all of them'. Wankers.
Yet Blair must realise, following the bowel-splitting ructions of the previous weeks, which we previously assumed were the sole domain of the Conservatives, that he is damaged goods. A series of rabid 'The Sun Says' editorials in support of the PM made for only comedic reading, and when your only friend in the world is Rebekah Wade at Fortress Wapping, then the gig is well and truly up.
Like an automaton that nobody can switch off, Tony appears at the TUC conference pushing his reform agenda like nothing has happened, the polite ripple of applause at the end of his speech a shadow of the rapturous ovation he received from the same hall less than a decade ago. What he cannot ignore is the open hostility he faced from sections of what should have been his home crowd.
After a brief tour finding out he is just as unpopular abroad as he is at home, you can excuse Tony for his piss-poor performance in Brighton. 'Government's hard work you know,' he whined, answering hecklers like a comedian dying on his arse at the Comedy Store. This wasn't the dashing Blair of old. It was an ex-Blair, going through the motions, delivering a speech on auto-pilot. Perhaps it's the sound of partying coming from Number Eleven, and Gordon and Sarah hammering away well into the night that's keeping him awake. It's clearly not his conscience that's doing it.
Who, then, can follow Blair? He is, in the words of the late Robin Day, nothing but a here today, and dare we say it, gone tomorrow public servant. If only that tomorrow would come that little bit quicker as his once-promising premiership fizzles out on a wave of apathy. Even the protestors these days are half-arsed, as if they know there's nobody home.
Not so long ago, Gordon Brown (who, incidentally, shines like the sun) was seen as a shoe-in for the move to Number Ten. Following a quiet coronation, he would stand, like a one-eyed colossus over the nation, economic prudence married to global leadership, with a son named after the Godfather of Soul. And who wouldn't vote for that, eh?
A growing anything-but-Gordon movement, punishing Cyclops for the damage he has caused the party, that's who.
The trouble is - and history has borne this out - that once a cult of personality has been established centred around the slavish devotion to the one, true leader (or, to use the technical term, 'Tony'), anybody that follows is looked upon in much the same way that Rupert Murdoch looks on his idiot offspring.
That is why we ended up with John Major in 1991 instead of the spectacularly hirsute Michael Heseltine, and a parade of similar no-hopers supposedly running the Conservative Party until Cameron managed to drive a wooden stake into the twitching corpse of Thatcherism. The same outcome looms for New Labour, with the Blair die-hards installing a series of Tony Mini-Mes until, some time around 2020, when All-New Nu Labour finds itself electable again.
From the baying rabble pretending they have no ambition to take the top job, we only hold one opinion: God save us from Charles Clarke. And John Reid. And Patricia Hewitt. And...
To help matters, we've compiled a short list of people who would make a better Prime Minister than absolutely anybody in the Labour Party. It's our humble contribution to the future of the nation:
- Peter Sutcliffe (exactly the same number of eyes as Gordon Brown, less scary, more personality)
- Ron Atkinson (cracking foreign policy, if you're asking)
- Chantelle Houghton (an empty vessel, untouched by popular opinion. A shoe-in)
It's just a shame that the Turkmenbashi is out of the running, as - now more than ever - what we really need is strong, mental leadership.
But what of Tony? He still thinks he's important, and there's that huge mortgage on his central London pad to pay off. We hear whispers that he's got eyes for Kofi Annan's job, as if life wasn't tough enough in the UN as it is. Still, he gets to think he's in charge whilst retaining poodle status, and he's doing a job where he can do little or no harm at all. And as long as he's happy, we're all happy.