Tony and Gordon: walking in love

Whatever next? Tony Blair and Gordon Brown walking barefoot on the beach as the sun sets in front of them; the wind gently tousling their hair; white shirts fluttering loose in the breeze to the sounds of Bill Withers' singing "Just the Two of Us" as they skip hand in hand, kicking up the waves? Perhaps they might hang on a garden gate together, grinning inanely like a pair of mating Mellors. Daily it seems they parade their love for the cameras.

Wander into Leicester Square this evening and you might catch the golden couple arriving at the latest premiere. The prime minister looking dapper in black tie, the chancellor in a naughty little number, borrowed from his favourite designer and henceforth to be referred to as "that suit".

Did we all blink and miss Max Clifford's appointment as Labour's new communications director? Was it not only a few weeks ago that Mr Blair was caught by the papers embracing Alan Milburn, while a hurt and betrayed Gordon Brown was seeking solace among close friends. Last month Mr Brown faced eviction from his house; now there are even posters proclaiming he can stay as long as he likes. Isn't love wonderful? Why shouldn't they share their joy with the world?

Then again both do have much to gain from being an item once more. The prime minister needs to be seen with the chancellor to bolster his waning popularity, while the chancellor has used his electoral appeal to secure his position.

Perhaps this is too cynical. Maybe Tony and Gordon really are just sooo in love again. Having tasted life apart they now realise that they are, indeed, the cream in each other's coffee.

It's that classic scriptline of boy meets boy; boy steals other boy's job; boy falls out with boy; boy tolerates other boy acting like he's head boy; boy gets fed up with other boy acting like head boy; boy finds new boy; sources close to the other boy say he no longer believes anything the first boy says; sources close to the first boy let it be known that he might stop the other boy being chancellor; other boy sulks and finally, boy gets boy again.

We should not be complacent. Mr Milburn may yet sell his story to the Sunday papers, telling how the PM fathered a love manifesto with him.

Should the rumours of a split persist they might always follow the fine example set in May 1994 by Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford, who sought to curtail rumours about their relationship with a full page advertisement in the Times. It stated: "We got married because we love each other and we decided to make a life together. Marriage is hard enough without all this negative speculation.

"Thoughts and words are very powerful so please be responsible, truthful and kind. We are heterosexual and monogamous and take our commitment to each other seriously. There is no pre-nuptial agreement between us . . . There are no plans nor have there ever been any plans for divorce. We remain very married."

The Blair/Brown one might run: "We created new Labour because we wanted to build a government together. Thoughts and words are powerful so please be responsible with those off-the-record briefings our closest allies give you. There is not and there never has been a deal of any kind. Tony may often have offered to stand aside for Gordon but it was never meant to be taken literally. There are no plans, nor have there ever been any plans to force Gordon out of the Treasury. We remain verycommitted to winning the election."

Alas, though Gere and Crawford were very married in May, they were very separated by December. Surely such misfortune won't befall our pair.

Mad Hatties

Meanwhile Michael Howard devoted Thursday to his cleaner hospitals policy. He proposes to fight MRSA by "putting matron back in charge" of ward cleanliness.

The Conservatives' answer to MRSA then, is to bring back Hattie Jacques. One can certainly see how the idea of a no-nonsense matron barking out orders might conform to the party's election slogan "Are you thinking what we are thinking?" Doubtless there are some Tories who think of little else but being bossed about by Hattie Jacques.

Even now at secret locations thousands of Hattie Jacqueses are, no doubt, being cloned and stored, ready for release into our hospitals the moment Michael Howard wins.

It need not stop there. After all, we are talking about a versatile actress whose talents did not stop at playing matron. Large stockpiles of Hattie Jacques are also being prepared as part of another Tory pledge to bring back school discipline. Others are on hand for use in helping Mr Howard meet his pledge to put more officers on the beat. It is hard to conceive of a better crime-fighting wheeze than 5,000 Hattie Jacqueses tearing down the street striking terror with their fearsome warcry"Oh Eric".

The one concern must be what will happen to all the Hattie Jacqueses if the Tories lose. The last thing Britain needs is hundreds of Hatties hanging round street corners waiting for Sid James to show up. Perhaps they could form the vanguard of Mr Blair's new breed of school dinner lady.

robert.shrimsley@ft.com

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