…Tony needs to reach his hotel, The Machiavellian… he finds a taxi and gives the driver the benefit of his immense wisdom…the continuing story of Tony Blair in the wilderness…
“The Machiavellian, sir. No problem, sir.”
The ancient taxi moved off, and I watched unlit shops and wet streets slide by through the cracked side window held together by tape. I was desperate to meet the people, but there was no MacDonald’s in Invershneckie as far as I could see.
“Any chance of a MacDonald’s round here?”
The taxi driver cranked the immense gear lever as though he was lifting a large gate.
“You know, a Burger King, a fast-food outlet?”
“Tony isn’t it? Tony Blair? Shame about the Labour party. I had that Iain Duncan Smith in the back of the cab once. Are you here for long, son?”
Mist, freezing and cloying, hung around every streetlight.
“A year in the onion?”
“The onion, sir. The Machiavellian. Cheese and onion. Onion.”
I was in the capable hands of an exponent of rare and obscure Scottish rhyming slang. He wanted to know who was paying for me to stay in The Machiavellian.
“Did you strike Conger?”
“Conger eel, sir, eel. Scots coffee, Gorballs gold, Aberdeen Angus, McTexas tea. Did the Civil Aviation Agency send you, sir?”
I wondered what on earth the man was talking about.
“Yes. The Civil Aviation Agency are handling everything, and I’m here to take up a very comfortable well-paid desk job in the morning, after a well-earned night’s rest in the Machiavellian, that’s if I ever reach the Machiavellian. Tell me, can I count on your vote?”
The driver pressed the accelerator so the ancient vehicle backfired. A mechanical indicator lever lifted on the outside of the taxi, which rounded a corner and leaned dangerously forcing me to hold on. I had never experienced anything so frightening, but I knew my mission depended on that driver and that ancient taxi.
“My guess is this. You’ll be working on the oil expansion in Ardrossan. Construction work.”
“Construction work? I don’t think so. All I have to do is click my fingers and step right in, like pulling on a pair of old sneakers, and opening a cold one.”
“Plenty of money to be earned in Ardrossan if you’ve got the bottle, sir.”
“The bottle? What bottle?”
“The trouble with Ardrossan is it drives men a little bit mad, sir, so that won’t be a problem for you.”
“It won’t, not that I’m mad or anything, but I certainly will not be visiting Ardrossan, and I certainly won’t be having anything to do with any oil expansion. That kind of grubby stuff just isn’t a happening thing any more. We must move on in Britain. We must move away from tired old mineral-based industries and seize the new technologies, like I-pods, game boys, and er…Star Wars things, holograms, the little see-through Princesses standing in the palm of your hand going, help me, help me.”
The driver took a right into mist and then another right. He checked the rear-view mirror.
“One-way system, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”
But then he turned right again and I was growing kind of concerned about the one-wayness of it all.
“Now look here, er…buddy.”
“There’s nothing I can do about the road system, Tony, sir. Here’s the onion, sir, no bother, sir.”
He pulled up outside the Machiavellian. It was next to the train station. I’d been taken full circle, but I didn’t care if the crazy road system meant I had to reach the Machiavellian via Moscow. I was spending the people’s money, and you know, I was doing what I was told to do, what I believed to be right, for the good of the country.
“What’s the scale of the damage?”
“I’m sorry, sir?”
“Gimme the casualty list?”
The driver pressed a button on the dashboard. A number appeared on a tiny screen above my head. Pressing another button caused the numbers to multiply uncontrollably. The driver held out his hand.
“Fifteen pounds forty please, sir.”
I looked up at the long and very steep steps that led to the glass doors of the Hotel Machiavellian.
Tony Blair: The Wilderness Years ISBN 1-4196-0573-9