IF you thought the return of Engelbert Humperdinck was the humdinger of all comebacks then brace yourself.
Put that cup of hot tea down, mother. Father, take the blanket that goes over the budgie's cage at night and sling it over granny. Move precious objects to the loft, close the curtains, and prepare to direct a Munchian scream into a cushion as you digest the news that Tony Blair seeks a return to UK politics.
Thinking back, the signs had been there. He had been spending months in Britain where before he jetted round the world. Still, maybe the timing wasn't quite right. Then along comes the Coalition Government's Keystone Cops month, jerry can crisis, pasty tax, Jeremy Hunt row, and all. This was the ideal moment to float the idea that maybe that Blair fella, far from being hopelessly discredited, had been a pretty straight forward kind of guy after all. David Cameron – the only man who could make Tony Blair look good.
Granted, there is not much in the way of hard evidence to support the comeback tale. Cherie has not yet appeared at Number 10 asking to have a quick whizz round with a tape measure (too many other properties to maintain, one suspects). At the moment, Tony's return is still at the kite-flying stage.
Kite number one is the hiring of a new PR chief. Kite two is sharing the bill with Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, at an Olympics-related event in July. Kite three is the appearance of comeback stories citing "sources close to Mr Blair". According to one of these sources: "He wants to re-engage in the UK. He has things to say and he thinks it's the right time. The question is how he re-enters the UK scene without re-entering domestic politics and interfering with the Labour Party."
Priceless. A fox has a better chance of re-entering a hen house without causing a stir. Just when Ed Miliband is trying to induce collective amnesia about his party's time in power, along comes Mr Blair to bring it all back home again. The waste, the missed chances, the scandals, the backbiting and back-scratching, and above all the wars.
Perhaps it is the travelling he does but Mr Blair does seem to be confused about time. A comeback suggests he sees the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as existing in the distant past, like the First and Second World Wars. Not for the victims and their families they don't. They live with the consequences of Mr Blair's actions every second, every minute, every hour, every sleepless night and long, bewildered day. For them, there will never be a time when a decent interval has passed, and it is plain indecent to believe otherwise. For that reason alone, Mr Blair should regard his time in UK politics as over. Consider it a very small price to pay.
Should he disregard such concerns he will find the Tories waiting with open arms. If he has any difficulty identifying them, they are the posh boys standing to the right of millions of disillusioned Labour voters. Mr Blair's return is such a fiendishly clever jape it could have come straight from the brains of the Bullingdon Club's finest. Every comment he makes will be dredged up, along with the past, and hurled in Mr Miliband's direction.
Here's the thing, though. According to the same source, Mr Blair wants to be above party politics. Much in the same way, a squadron of Gloucestershire Old Spots hopes to be above Buckingham Palace on Diamond Jubilee Sunday. Never going to happen. Mr Blair might have thought he found a third way in politics, but that was when the good times were rolling and politics had softer edges. Today, politics is returning to tribal basics. Sides have been redrawn. All in this together? Don't make us laugh bitterly.
If voters have trouble thinking of themselves as shoulder to shoulder with the very rich Mr Cameron, how will they bond with the now extremely well-off Mr Blair? One of his companies, Windrush Ventures, had an income of £12 million in the year to March 31, 2011. His earnings come in the main from speaking tours and consultancies. There are now more than 100 staff working for him, albeit a lot of them toiling for his charitable foundations. Indeed, he is doing so well with his various ventures he's moving into bigger offices.
He manages to do all this as well as being a peace envoy. What a multi-tasker. You might think, given the amount of free time he has to do other things, that Mr Blair was the peace envoy for Switzerland. Alas, no. His brief is the Middle East. Last time anyone checked, peace in that part of the world was very much a work in progress.
And where would Mr Blair find a platform to lord it over British politics? He's much too grand for the House of Lords. (They let anybody in there these days, eh Lord Prescott?) He could play on his Scottish roots and stand for Holyrood, but Hugh Grant has more chance of being elected.
Despite the pelters that will come his way for even considering a comeback, and the money he might miss out on from his business ventures, it is not impossible that Mr Blair will plough on regardless. He has form in that area, remember.
Mr Blair turns 59 this Sunday. He's still a relatively young man. More importantly, he is a member of the ex-premiers' club, that band of men, and occasionally women, who have supped from the cup of power and liked the taste so much they thirst for it ever after.
Mr Blair adored it so much he stayed, like Mrs Thatcher, for a third, toxic, term. He didn't exit gracefully in 2007 so much as he was forced out by the continuing fallout from his foreign policy adventures and Gordon Brown's boiling impatience. Mr Blair thinks he has unfinished business, but most ex-leaders do. Witness the sight of Bill Clinton, a shadow of his former powerful self. Hillary Clinton once said Bill was a hard dog to keep on the porch. Now that Hill's left home to travel the world, Bill can wander wherever the heck he likes. He can chase birds, squirrels, deer, but not, obviously, skirt.
Mr Blair, meanwhile, can go chase himself. Never has a Labour prime minister started out with such promise, and so many promises, only to leave so many feeling let down. Your underfed ego might need British politics Mr Blair, but British politics does not need you.
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