Rory's Week: Perhaps Blair Was Jealous. Perhaps the Thought of Straw and Condi Rice Singing "Ebony and Ivory" in the Jacuzzi at Chevening Was Too Much to Bear
Bremner, Rory, New Statesman (1996)
I'm always a little concerned when people come up to me, as they have done this past fortnight, and say that "this lot must be giving you so much material at the moment". This usually means that the government, dissatisfied with the amount of ridicule it is attracting from outside, has decided to write its own script, which is invariably more ludicrous than any comic invention. It would have taken a particularly imaginative satirist to come up with John Prescott's affair, but to combine it with news of the release of a thousand foreign criminals on to the streets (the very week that Blair was boasting how he would "harry, hassle and hound them until they leave the country") and Patricia Hewitt's mauling at the hands of the nurses was some feat by anybody's standards.
I have never met Charles Clarke, but I have encountered the other two, Hewitt at a Health Service Awards do, where she relieved the boredom by texting away on her mobile phone, and Prescott on a number of occasions on Breakfast With Frost. At the last such encounter, he cheerfully greeted that day's newspaper reviewer, Nigel Havers, before noticing me, whereupon his face fell so far and so fast that Havers and I burst out laughing. "He's just working on your script," Havers joked. "I don't give a crap what he says," spat the Deputy Prime Minister, and stormed off so grumpily he nearly took the door with him.
Not that I should feel in any way flattered by this. As he's chosen to hold on to his salary and his two grace-and-favour homes--well, he needs somewhere to conduct his affairs--it's clear that he doesn't give a crap what anybody says. This is a man who thinks a reshuffle is something to do with pocket billiards. The Prime Minister must have been debating whether to give him a new job or an Asbo.
"Don't forget," Prescott growled as we parted, "I have the last word." Not any more he doesn't.
The local election results were quickly obscured by the drama of the reshuffle, as we can be sure the Prime Minister intended. But the whole business of hiring and firing ministers is wasted on Sky News in the middle of the morning. It should be done live on prime time, hosted by Ant and Dec: "Ho-ho! …