A fascist's guide to the Premiership

The notion of being British has never been so devalued. Sport alone seems able to be the catalyst of

Is the English working class re-tribalising itself? Out here, to the west of London, in the motorway towns near Heathrow, a few St George's flags still hang in a dispirited way from council house windows and the coat-hanger aerials of white vans. As I drive from Shepperton past the airport, there's a sense of a failed insurrection. During the World Cup, a forest of flags flew proudly from almost every shop, factory and car, a passionate display willing on more than Beckham's boys in Germany.

This wasn't patriotism so much as a waking sense of tribal identity, dormant for decades. The notion of being British has never been so devalued. Sport alone seems able to be the catalyst of significant social change. Football crowds rocking stadiums and bellowing anthems are taking part in political rallies without realising it, as would-be fascist leaders will have noted.

The English, thank God, have always detested jackboots, searchlight parades and Führers ranting from balconies. But the Premier League, at the pinnacle of our entertainment culture, is a huge engine of potential change, waiting to be switched on. Could consumerism evolve into fascism? There is nothing to stop some strange consumer trend becoming a new ideology. Church and monarchy are dying on their knees, and politics is just another public utility, along with sewerage and the gas supply.

Surprisingly, the Heathrow scare on 10 August brought not even the briefest flourish of St George's flags. Driving past the airport on the A30, I noticed the familiar group of plane spotters not far from the Hilton. Not a plane was taking off, but the dream was in their eyes. Heathrow is a magnetic place, and the rest of London is merely a vast suburb of its airport. The inner keep of the great terminals is under siege, and I'm not surprised that would-be suicide bombers are so drawn to our airline system.

I take for granted that suicide bombing is a sign of despair. The kamikaze pilots who crashed their planes into American carriers knew that Japan had lost the war. Palestinian suicide bombers know that they cannot defeat Israel. The young London Underground bombers of 7/7 must have known that Islam, so deeply rooted in the past, cannot defeat the west. For Mohammed Atta, flying an airliner into the World Trade Center was his way of being modern. People are never more dangerous than when they have nothing left to believe in except God. And perhaps God today can only be reached through psychopathology. As far as I know, none of the Hezbollah fighters who so stunned the Israeli army resorted to suicide tactics, presumably because they were certain they were winning.

We will all miss Tony Blair

Autumn is almost here, and the new political season approaches in a half-hearted way, the last act of an overlong play that has begun to bore the audience. All the same, I suspect that we will miss Tony Blair when he is gone. The boyish charm is fraying but still intact. The exhaustion, the desperate need to convince everyone of the truth of his own delusions, the raw emotions worn as a kind of exoskeleton, all show one of the great actor-managers in heroic decline. Blair may be the last British prime minister able to trade openly on his emotions. He knows that we are secretly rather drawn to bad acting and are happy to collude in his exposure of his weaknesses.

He is the beaten husband, still in charge of the car keys and the TV remote, but aware that the rest of the household despises him and is impatient for him to bring down the curtain. He jokes and winces, and makes fun of his own despair. The longer he hangs on, the more he can steer us towards the steamy, emotional bath we were happy to help him prepare. Would he like to drown us? After all, we like being lied to, we like promises that will never be kept, we like being locked into his smiling neediness.

His successor is likely to give us a shock, especially if it is Gordon Brown, the greatest mystery in British politics for the past 50 years. High in intelligence and self-control, but zero for acting skills and emotional martyrdom. Will we be happy with him? I seriously doubt it. Perhaps only damaged actors can lead modern societies down the crooked paths that they prefer.