Political Philosophy? Blair's Lips Parted in a Sickly Grin
Letts, Quentin, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: QUENTIN LETTS
SOMETHING shocking, possibly inexcusable, happened at the start of Prime Minister's Questions. A Labour MP asked Tony Blair to describe his ' political philosophy'.
Eyeballs bulged. Mouths sucked in the air and Government backbenchers' lips formed small 'o' shapes of astonishment.
The man with the gall to seek such information was Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead), an almost unknown backbencher who started the day with little chance of promotion to Government. He ended it with none.
It started harmlessly enough.
Mr McWalter, owner of a pleasing little potbelly and a florid face, was number one on the Order Paper.
Three o'clock struck. Gorbals Mick invited Mr McWalter to throw his dice to get the half-hour session under way.
The 56-year-old got to his feet, tucked his shirt front into his trousers, and threw back his bald head.
He spoke in a mild East Midlands accent, routine issue, nothing to trouble the horses.
'Since my Right Hon Friend is sometimes subjected to unflattering and even malevolent descriptions of his motivations...' began Mr McWalter.
This won a little burble of Labour amusement. Up in the press gallery, we were conceited enough to wonder if he might have been referring to us.
Now Mr McWalter continued by asking Mr Blair for 'a brief characterisation of the political philosophy which he espouses and which underlies his policies'.
The Honourable Member regarded the House with an expression of balmy innocence and, licking his upper lip, resumed his seat to cross arms and await an answer.
Down on the Government front bench, Mr Blair did not know what to say. I once owned an unreliable secondhand Peugeot. Not even on the dampest morning did it ever stall quite as comprehensively as Mr Blair stalled yesterday.
Philosophy? The Prime Minister's lips parted in a sickly grin. Er. Well.
He tried to make a pretty joke out of his dilemma. 'I should thank him for his question,' he said. …