Monday, July 02, 2007

The Blair Switch Project

A humorous title to begin my blog always helps, though I have to nod my head to Channel 5, who created a news piece on what Tony Blair might do next called Blair: Which Project?, which is a lot better than mine. The transition between Prime Ministers has not been an easy one this week, and Gordon Brown, dour-faced and rubbery, looks set to inherit a multitude of problems that in the run up to Blair's leaving do, were widely forgotten about.

After much umming and ahhing, Blair has finally left 10 Downing Street, months after originally signalling his intent to do so, and after several delays in specifying when exactly he would be moving house. I was perhaps too young to commit to memory much of the passover between John Major and Tony Blair in 1997 - a much more significant event, in that the change of Prime Minister then actually meant a change of Government too - but I do not remember such a spectacle made of the event then compared to this year. It will take months for Brown to affect any radical or even noticeable overhaul of the Labour Party's governing of this country, yet this passing over power turned into something of an all day television event.

The BBC's Huw Edwards spent hours commentating on bird's eye views of London where indistinguishable cars bearing Blair and then Brown visited Buckingham Palace to take part in what Edwards called a "great British tradition": the former PM resigning before the Queen, the new PM being appointed by her. Somehow, it seemed to go on for ever, and flicking to and fro from BBC One, I wondered at times whether they were actually re-running old footage and scenic shots of the London Marathon.

Cherie said it: "I don't think we'll miss you very much", and no doubt she was right. How the (admittedly convoluted) process of power passing from one man to another, that had been on the cards all year, deserved live coverage for hours on end is beyond me. It went on almost as long as Concert for Diana today (and THAT had Ricky Gervais, Lily Allen, Nelly Furtado, James Morrison, Elton John and Rod Stewart). The power switch didn't make for electrifying viewing: what was going to happen, Blair suddenly run out of the Palace yelling "I won't resign!!"? Brown's car go up on the kerb and into the railings outside number 10? As I said, it's significance in the moment was largely superficial, only time will tell what difference it will make. However, the country has certainly been a more...interesting place in the last few days since Brown took over.

Two foiled car bombs in central London (the police are lambasted when they shoot an innocent man, but prevent two potentially horrific nail bomb explosions and there's not a word of praise), a flaming car driven into Glasgow airport, half of Yorkshire under water; Brown's going to have his work cut out. Britain remains on the highest security alert after the two incidents in London and Glasgow seem almost certainly linked to a terrorist group, although that does lead me to ask what security alert we go to if something like 7/7 were to happen again in the next day or two. Still, the police and Scotland Yard do seem to be making strides in their investigations with several arrests and successful leads being followed. But the message, if indeed it was a message - the timing is all too punctual to be coincidence in my opinion - is clear.

Welcome to the hardest job in Britain, Mr Brown. Signed the media, the public, Osama, Iran, me, the Conservative and Lib Dem Parties, and France.