Rory's week - Rory Bremner tries the Howard touch

Who would have come up with a satire that made Ian Paisley First Minister of Northern Ireland becaus

I'll miss Andrew Marr now that he's no longer the BBC's political editor. Not so much as a subject - I never mastered his idiosyncratic Anglo-Scottish cadences, and as he would be the first to appreciate, his unique physiognomy represented the ultimate challenge to Helen, my make-up artist. Rather it was his knack of making sense of fast-moving events and being sufficiently relaxed to inject a dose of humour into his reports that always impressed me. He was also (prior to his BBC job) one of the few political presenters prepared to come on our TV show and "interview" me in character as a cabinet minister, knowing that he might well encounter the real minister later that week. Others have followed since, notably Jon Snow, who once interviewed me as Tony Blair in the morning before cycling across town to interview the real one in the afternoon. ("This is the second chat we've had today," he told a rather nonplussed PM.) The only thing that concerned Jon was the suspicion that Blair wore more make-up than I did. Hardly surprising, considering he has spent more than £1,800 on it. (Picture the Chancellor querying Blair's expenses claim: "Could you not go to Boots? Does it have to be Clarins?") At that price, it is at least possible that it costs less to make me look like Tony Blair than it does him.

Marr's arrival in the job five years ago coincided with the dramatic events of the truckers' fuel blockade. I spent that week made up as Blair, once having to rush home from filming to host a supper party without having time to change in between. I seem to recall going to bed that night with the Blair wig and ears on. Our daughter was born around nine months later, but I'm glad to say she bears no resemblance to the Prime Minister, other than her stubbornness and unwillingness to listen. She, meanwhile, has to put up with my hapless parenting skills, which involve me unwittingly slipping into Blair mode during conflict resolution ("Look, come on, can't we at least talk about this?"). Worse still, during disarmament talks (that is, the placing of felt-tip pens, scissors or crayons beyond use), she will never know how much Michael Howard there is in my negotiating technique ("It's all right - I'm not going to hurt you").

One of the recurring ironies of doing a topical satire show is that real life often succeeds in trumping our attempts at caricature. Thus we find that the Department for Education has not one committee looking into duplication of resources, but two. We discover that for a brief and glorious period Avon and Somerset Police had its campaign against drink-driving sponsored by Thresher's. In the wonderful world of new Labour, the truth is often beyond parody. But who could have come up with a script that envisaged, as a consequence of the IRA's renunciation of violence, the arrival of Ian Paisley as First Minister of Northern Ireland?

It always depresses me when frenzied speculation about the transfer market signals the start of the football season, with August barely begun. Rio Ferdinand's gratitude for Man United's loyalty to him is reportedly to hold out for £120,000 a week instead of the £100,000 on offer. It would be fun to apply the principle of transfers to other areas. For example, if Prince Charles had brought forward his wedding plans when he got wind that Camilla (whom he'd acquired on a free transfer after a lengthy period on loan from her husband) was being tapped up by Chelsea. And what of the Premier League? Iain Duncan Smith is reportedly unhappy at Conservative City (well they wouldn't be United, would they?) and is considering putting in a transfer request. At Labour, injuries to Gordon Brown's pride and friction with Charles Clarke over the appointment of youth coach Louise Casey have outweighed last season's triumphs, which also saw right-winger Robert Jackson acquired on a free and Paul Marsden back from loan at the Lib Dems. With Peter Mandelson playing in Europe and Stephen Byers cup-tied (having played in the Railtrack game), the latest problem for the champions is the manager's wife. Having fallen out with the boss over human rights and personal terms - she doesn't get out of bed for less than £20,000 - Cherie may attract interest from the prospective Tory coach David Davis. Ken Clarke, nearing the end of his career and looking for a player-manager role, may be thrown in as a sweetener. Who said sport and politics don't mix?

Rory Bremner writes for the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 08 August 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Islam: the tide of change