SPECIAL REPORT published
DODGES DIFFICULT ONE ON EXAMS
by ROBERT McNEIL
A PRIME Minister arrived in the Semi-Independent Republic
of Scotchland yesterday. Mr Tony Blair had come, in
his flesh, to see what the natives were up to in the
land of haggis, whisky, and excitingly random exam
results. (I myself received top marks in domestic
science without even knowing I had sat it.)
the morning, Mr Tony visited Strathclyde Police, where
80 recruits were passing out, if that is the phrase.
This was the largest intake of rookie rozzers since
the 1970s, when people flocked to the force so they
wouldn't have to wear flares. Yesterday, however,
the big question was: after all this training malarkey,
where do the young coppers go? I imagine them all
locked up in a barn somewhere, talking and smoking
tabs till the next shift arrives. Let's face it, a
cop on the street is as rare as a nun in a Rangers
scarf. Indeed, the only time you see the constabulary
is at soccer tournaments. Never mind.
were on parade yesterday at Strathclyde's headquarters,
a redbrick building that looked like a 1960s biscuit
factory. And, hey, it's still turning out Jammy Dodgers.
I didn't write that. A big boy came and did it. The
Union Flag flew side by side with the Saltire, symbolising
the general contentment felt by everyone in the empire.
Prime Minister arrived in a cavalcade of flashing
motor cycles and fancy cars, and leaped out to exchange
palm sweat with some waiting women. A crash barrier
had been erected but, really, a dwarf with a dustbin
lid could have kept back the crowds. As Mr Blair entered
the building, somebody let out a solitary "Whoa-oa!"
of support. Alastair Campbell, his press officer,
The Prime Minister looked tanned and fit, testament
to the superior merits of Italy to Skegness as a holiday
destination. Inside, rows of rozzers were formed up.
Before Mr B arrived, a sergeant with a swizzle stick
brought the men, and quite a few birds, to attention.
Then he made them stand at ease. Then he said: "Final
adjustments of studs." Then he brought them to attention
and made them turn to the left. Then he said: "You've
got five minutes. Make only slight adjustments." Then
he said: "Just stay relaxed." I was dying for some
poor recruit to shout: "I could relax if you would
shut up with your bloody adjustments."
last, Mr Blair arrived and inspected the troops, stopping
at one point to make small talk with a small policewoman.
It was difficult to catch the exchange, but fortunately
I am adept at lip-reading: "Gosh, you're not very
large. What made you join the police force?" "The
Blair then made a speech, in which he urged the nation's
criminals to give it a rest. The nation's press urged
him to say something about the exams malarkey, and
he said it would be wrong for Sam Galbraith, the education
minister, to resign since exams had nothing to do
Later, in the afternoon, Mr Blair proceeded to Edinburgh,
capital of English-speaking Scotland, where it is
understood he may have encountered the amusing patois
of Mr Galbraith, as this leaked extract from the recorded
minutes makes clear.
Galbraith (opening tin of Irn Bru): "Ah'm no resignin',
neither I am."
Mr Blair (sipping Perrier): "I'm sorry?"
Mr Galbraith: "Resignin'. Ah'm no daein' it. Neither
Mr Blair: "Quite right. Good stuff. Er, neither you
caught a glimpse of His Tonyness later, at Victoria
Quay, where he had been meeting Donald Dewar, the
Leader of All Scotland, Rhodri Morgan, the Leader
of All Wales, and David Trimble, the Leader of Some
Nutters. While they chuntered on, at a press conference
outside the building, Mr Blair swept past and got
into a Daimler, ignoring questions. As his car pulled
away, someone from a tabloid shouted sarcastically:
"Missin' you already!" I tell you, a prime minister's
lot is not a happy one.