Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Blair on the way out"

Being out of the country when a so-called political storm is blowing back home is interesting. You think it's nonsense but you are not quite sure.

In Japan, there are no British papers, and the only news you get from Britain is on BBC World, which has surprisingly few stories from the mother country. The only way I had any idea there was anything going on in the world, apart from the World Cup, was by the number of calls I got from journalists who thought that I cared about politics during the tournament.

I was asked to comment on what I thought of Campbell's latest position and the statement by the Prime Minister's wife. I got a call from one hack shortly after England had lost to Brazil, when I was drowning my sorrows in a Shizuoka bar. "What do you think about Cherie Blair?" I was asked. Not only did I not care, I couldn't believe the nation did either.

The day I got back from Japan, a Guardian opinion poll told us that the government and Tony Blair are as popular as ever. This came as little surprise because, for all the attacks from a hostile press about Black Rod, spin and whatever it was that Cherie Blair said, the punters are not stupid.

They may not like spin, but they know that most of these stories don't add up to a row of beans. The reason is simple: none of this affects their lives. The economy is still fairly buoyant, they have seen the price of their houses rise and England have done better than expected in the World Cup.

Gordon Brown may be sitting on the bench waiting to come on, as some commentators have put it, but my guess is that he will have a much longer wait than the England subs did last week.

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