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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 13:12 GMT
First Britain, then the world?
Mark Mardell
Will the Flying Helmsman's feet ever touch the ground again?

In his Mansion House speech Tony Blair again forcefully stated the case for what he admitted was a somewhat Utopian vision of a new world order, including an end to world poverty and all long running conflicts.

He'll soon get bored just being British prime minister

Labour elder statesman on Tony Blair
Some Labour politicians are puzzled by our pragmatic prime minister's adoption of a programme that might seem a bit idealistic to the most wild-eyed Trot.

But one Labour elder statesman tells me he has no doubts what it's all about: "It's a job application for afterwards. He'll soon get bored just being British prime minister."

But is the title of World President in the UN's gift?

Stephen Byers survives a parliamentary kicking from the new, elegant knee boots of his opposite number Theresa May.

Judging by the dropped jaws when the newly made over Ms May strides into the commons many male MPs would pay handsomely for such treatment.

But Mr Byers carries the house despite Downing Street's ludicrous "mafia defence".

They argued he did not lie to the commons because telling the rail regulator he'd lose all his powers if he bailed out Railtrack was not a threat but "spelling out the logical consequences of a certain course of action".

Trying muttering this sentence in a Marlon Brando growl and you'll get my point.

Senior backbenchers aren't fooled... but don't care.

As one put it: "If he'd lied to us about bus stops in Newcastle he'd be out. But Railtrack? So what? They've made a God awful mess of the railways and had it coming."

Jack's clean breast of his extra marital fling and Wendy Alexander's decision not fight for the job of Scotland's first minister deprives Gordon Brown of a champion north of the border but will save the Labour Party from a potentially gruesome scrap.

Even before Henry McLeish had officially gone she was weighing up her options and proposing to do battle against Jack McConnell under the banner "Vision AND integrity."

A dirty war in Scotland would have had fall out in London where the contest would undoubtedly have been seen as Blair's man versus Brown's woman.

But how will Gordon cope without a friend at the top? One ally of the chancellors told me grimly "Gordon won't like it, but Gordon will have to lump it ... Jack's the only player in town."

An almost sexual frisson runs through The Lobby on the very rare occasions when Alligator Campbell (as my spell check renders him) sits in his old hot seat.

Mug in hand, on Monday, he briefly returned to briefing, saying he was speeding through the day's announcements because he'd allowed himself just 20 minutes to do the job.

As ever that curious beast, The Lobby, thrills at being roughly handled and treated mean.

But perhaps even Alligator over-reached himself briefing not just on the prime minister's diary for the week, but the engagements of Russia's President Putin's as well.

How does that old song go? "I'd like to teach the world to spin, in perfect harmony ..."

Which of these didn't happen this week?

  • A state of public emergency is declared.

  • A government minister denounces "airy fairy" civil liberties.

  • The second chamber is emasculated.

  • The guardian of MP's behaviour is down graded.

  • The cabinet is told: "Our struggle must not be dependent on legal considerations."

    Oops, the last one was some German chap after the Reichstag fire. Anyone smell burning?

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