Blair, Brown, Bartlet and Blaine

Tonight we watched The West Wing (the Xmas episode in which Toby is reunited with his convicted felon dad) and Tony Blair’s speech at the Bournemouth conference. We’re about 90% convinced that Blair’s speech writers are watching The West Wing too. His speech was honest, gutsy, rhetorically sophisticated and beautifully timed ? a piece or work, in fact. In The West Wing, it’s obvious that Bartlet is the only man within a thousand miles capable of supplying the wisdom, judgement and resolve that his rather soft-focus country needs. I’m afraid that Blair has done a great job of showing that the same applies here. He’s the only viable leader for his party by about a mile.

I think I must be the only person in Britain who thinks Blair’s speech gives the lie to media theories about Brown’s accelerating leadership ambitions, though. I think that if there ever was a deal it’s probably still in place. Far from signalling open competition for the top job, the two speeches were a matched pair, dovetailing nicely, overlapping in enough places to provide narrative tension (because a love-in would just be boring). If the Labour Party were a business, on the strength of these two speeches, Brown would be its get-the-job-done CEO and Blair its charismatic Chairman.

The Blair vs. Brown mortal combat story is a bit of showbiz worthy of David Blaine. Quite a lot of people think Blaine isn’t in that box at all and that he’ll show up on day 44 in some exotic location and the joke will be on us. Likewise, there’s a reasonable chance that we’ve been had by Blair and Brown and that this particular illusion will produce a comfortable third term majority ? or at least a more placid ending to the second.

(cool screenshots, huh? Click the little pics for bigger ones)