Rory's Week

How can Mandelson talk such nonsense without his tongue catching fire?

It's never a good sign if you’re stressed out, pissed off and in a muck sweat before 7.30 on a Monday morning. The minicab I’d ordered for 7.15 arrived at 6.45, waking the dogs, which started to bark the house down. Half-dressed and with a toothbrush in my mouth, I had to make what Tony Blair would call a tough decision: whether to rush downstairs and quieten the dogs (which risked waking the children) or leave them barking (which risked the dogs waking the children).

I hurried down to deal with the dogs, only to run into my three-year-old ("Can I get up now?") and discover in any case that the puppy had decided to crap. It was now 6.50. "I did say 7.15, didn't I?" I asked the taxi driver. "Yes," he replied cheerily. "Better early than late, though!" Not today, matey.

On the way back to the bathroom I run into my other daughter ("Can I get up now?"). After 15 minutes trying to persuade the children back to bed and removing crap from sheepskin rug, I slump into the car. I am beginning to console myself that things can't get any worse when the unmistakable voice of Peter Mandelson crackles over the airwaves, warning the Labour Party in general (and Gordon Brown in particular) against "old-style operators in the party who thrive in smoke-filled rooms and are best left there, frankly". I'm constantly surprised that he is able to come out with such hypocritical nonsense without his tongue catching fire and his lips blistering.

"The new policy agendas won't come out of one person's head," he says. Where does he imagine the old policy agenda came from, if not out of the head of his sainted hero, Tony Blair? Blair once said he'd have succeeded when the party had learned to love Peter. It looks like Peter is returning the compliment, trying to persuade the party to love Tony again.

Monday morning is crunch time at Bremner, Bird and Fortune: that’s when, having negotiated the various crises at home and on the public transport system, I finally make it to the office to confront Geoff, my producer, and together we decide what to do in this week’s programme. We then have a day and a half to write the scripts before we head off to film on Wednesday and Thursday, adding the monologues on Friday. Our agenda is always a combination of covering stories that are happening in the week (Labour conference, Clinton in town, Romania and Bulgaria allowed to join the EU), trying to anticipate next week (Tories gearing up for conference), and inventing some inspired silliness. In a world increasingly dominated by uninspiring characters like George Osborne, John Hutton and Alan "Interesting" Johnson, it’s not easy. And so it is that I find myself agreeing to stand in a field full of shit, dressed as Hazel Blears (me, that is, not the shit) and holding a shovel. My week is going to be dominated by shit.

I interrupt some background reading about immigration (did you know there are now more doctors from Malawi in Manchester than there are in the whole of Malawi?) to watch the second half of Gordon Brown’s speech. Like Blair, he’s good at this stuff, and it is every bit as much an audition speech for the leadership as the five we were treated to last year from the Tory candidates.

Brown has to offer a new vision without entirely trashing the old one. Blair uses his speech, as ever, to try to justify and renew Blairism, though I'm still not sure what Philip Gould, David Hill and others mean by that. Maybe, like the Dome, it's an idea coined before they decided what the point of it was. But then the Dome was something inherited from the Tories; new Labour then tried to make it work in a slightly different way without altering the basic concept. Or was that Blairism?

"Bremner, Bird and Fortune" is on Channel 4 this Saturday at 8pm

Rory Bremner writes for the New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 02 October 2006 issue of the New Statesman, Warming up: a new double act