Charlie Whelan says . . .
Don't believe it - "No Scot will ever be prime minister"
Of all the bag carriers that Tony Blair has had only one has lasted the course - Jonathan Powell. Some people cruelly say that the Prime Minister's pompously named (by himself) "chief of staff" is still working in Downing Street only because no one else will give him a job. Certainly, with a Gordon Brown-led government, this particular ex-public schoolboy would be the first to go.
Like nearly everyone working in Westminster, I believe Boris Johnson's version of a discussion he had with Powell at some traffic lights. Significantly, there was no proper denial of the chief of staff having said that a Scot could never become prime minister. That he actually works for a Scottish prime minister seems to have escaped his notice. What he really meant was that we can have a Scottish prime minister who went to public school and hides his accent, but not one who went to state school and who is proud to be Scottish and British.
Predictably, Powell's comments went down badly in Scotland and only the decision of Jack "the Knife" McConnell to go to a snooty golf bash instead of Normandy kept the story low key.
Can you imagine, though, if Powell had said: "We could never have a black prime minister." He would never have been chief of anything again. It seems that in Westminster it's OK to be racist about the Scots or Welsh (there was the same talk about Neil Kinnock never becoming PM because he was Welsh). But, fortunately, the British public care more about a person's ability to do the job than their accent, which is why there are so many Scottish MPs representing English constituencies. What is it about people with the surname Powell?