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Routledge: 2001: my 'watch this space' odyssey; He's OFF-message and ON the warpath.

Byline: Paul Routledge

TIME again for Old Routledge's Almanac, the guide to events in 2001 that gives it to you straight.

Life is going to get back to normal after Make-Believe Millennium Year. There will be no daft Dome to worry about. No Queen Mother's 100th birthday. No American presidential election. And no Olympics!

It will just be good-old fashioned politics: warfare between Labour and the Tories, with the Liberal Democrats trying to pretend that they make a difference.

Abroad is abolished on January 9 when the boring Swedes take over the presidency of the European Union. Anybody who talks about the euro will be sent to Stockholm for the rest of the season.

On January 24, the Chinese Year of the Snake will begin. Tony Blair was born in a Snake Year (surprise! surprise!), so 2001 brings him luck. That's why he will call the election early, almost certainly on May 3, the fourth anniversary of his New Labour government coming to power.

February sees the tempo of election campaigning really pick up speed, and on February 14, St Valentine's Day, there is a mini-massacre of ministers as Blair tries to make his top team look more sexy.

Chancellor Gordon Brown is 50 on February 20, and his recently-acquired bride Sarah tells him that she's going to have a baby. It will be called Prudence if it's a girl, and Neo-Endogenous Classical Growth Theory if it's a boy - or Ed, for short.

The Conservatives hold their Spring Forum in Harro-gate on March 3. William Hague makes all the speeches, but the main event is a backstairs plot to get rid of him once the election is over.

Michael Portillo rules himself out after being found in a gay nightclub (not many of them in Harrogate), and Ken Clarke announces he is willing to lead them back out of the wilderness.

A week later, the Scottish Labour Party stages its annual whiskyfest in Inverness, and all internal battles are forgotten in a sentimental, drunken chorus of A Man's A Man for A' That.

ON April 5, the Grand National is won by a horse named Mandy, a filly out of Pink Rum and a frolicky little mare, Rene Aldo.

The London Marathon on April 22 is won by Ken Livingstone, after a recount.

The Good Friday Agreement bringing peace, prosperity and power-sharing is three years old on April 10. The anniversary will be marked by vicious riots in Belfast. The Ulster Unionists say the deal is worthless, and Sinn Fein agrees.

Polling Day on May 3 starts with heavy rain, but after a statement from Downing Street by Tony Blair that Things Can Only Get Better the sun comes out and voters flock to vote New Labour.

Shortly after midnight, William Hague concedes defeat as the Blairistas cruise to a hundred-plus majority. Old Routledge collects his pounds 10 bet at Westminster.

On May 6, Blair celebrates his 48th birthday at Chequers, discussing with Peter Mandelson the date of his resignation to spend more time with his family.

A Day of Long Knives ensues. John Prescott is sacked from his job as Minister for Everything, but keeps his elected post as Deputy Leader, aka Minister for Nothing.

He is followed into political oblivion by Clare Short, Robin Cook and Chris Smith. Who he? Culture Secretary for the past four years, though you may be forgiven for not noticing.

Nothing much happens in June, except Wimbledon and the Queen's Birthday Honours, in which Neil Kinnock finally accepts a peerage and Tony Benn becomes Companion of Honour.

Abroad is re-established, but promptly abolished again because Belgium takes over the European presidency. Nobody can name three famous Belgians.

July 1 is the second anniversary of the Scottish Parliament. Members celebrate with a kilt-hoisting competition, sponsored by Glengroin Whisky. The winner is a woman Nationalist.

The Queen Mother is 101 on August 4, and this event has nothing to do with Cowes Week, which starts the same day.

Peter Mandelson, the new Foreign Secretary, is in charge of the shop for the summer recess while the rest of the Government is in Cape Cod or Tuscany. He tells friends that he expects to be Prime Minister "within a year".

THE Notting Hill Carnival on August Bank Holiday weekend is disrupted by gangs of Young LibDem "steamers" running through the crowd, shouting: "What do we want? Proportional representation! When do we want it? Now!"

The party conference season opens in spectacular style.

The LibDems, meeting in Bournemouth, are shocked by the resignation of their leader Charlie Kennedy, only weeks before his 42nd birthday.

He apologises for winning 20 fewer seats at the general election than Paddy Ashdown did in 1997. Ashdown, now the UN Governor-General of the Balkans, permits himself a customary smirk.

Labour delegates gather in Brighton on September 30 amid an MPs' revolt over the proposed sell-off of Whitehall for luxury flats and a Japanese hotel.

All civil servants are to be relocated to Aberystwyth. Gordon Brown says the idea is "a prudent use of public assets".

The Conservatives flock to Blackpool for the political execution of William Hague.

Plans for a sensible successor go up in smoke as Ann Widdecombe is chosen as leader and declares zero tolerance on dissent in the party. Ken Clarke leaves Westminster to become President of the European Commission.

Clocks go back soon afterwards, in sympathy.

Now the dog days of winter set in. The Queen opens Parliament again amid a sea of indifference, promising a legislative programme fitted to a government that is losing interest after winning for the second time.

There is just one bright spot on the horizon. After a year of abroad in the deep freeze, Spain takes over the presidency of the EU.

Sangria and cheap brandies all round! Maybe Europe can be fun after all.
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Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 29, 2000
Previous Article:Voice Of The Mirror: Take care in this winter wonderland.
Next Article:Voice Of The Mirror: Call for calm.

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