In science and politics, they say the same thing about vacuums - where you create one, there will always be something or someone determined to fill it.
I am an expert in political vacuums and I enjoyed the highest quality training. From General Mike Jackson no less, our Prime Minister's own tutor. He is the only man in the last decade or so who has truly understood the power of vacuums.
In Kosovo in 1999, I was a uniformed Army press officer and for the purposes of the day we crossed the border from Macedonia, I was in charge of the Sky News team and Reuters. By means of some clever manoevering by me, we were literally the third vehicle in the convoy of 2000 vehicles which would all drive up that one straight road to Pristina.
So what, Bailey? I hear you shout. Stick with it. Stick with it.
So Jackson's plan for entering Kosovo, which was revealed to the world but actually designed with only one audience in mind, was to give the Serbs a timeframe for withdrawal. After each 24hr period beyond a stated day they had to have withdrawn further and further North until all troops had left Kosovo. What the old devil omitted to mention was that he had no intention of waiting for the withdrawal programme to even start before flooding the place with Nato soldiers. So it was then that we moved slowly but surely into Kosovo that morning to be confronted by some pretty surprised and pissed off Serbs. "We haven't even started packing yet" they said. "We have another day" they insisted.
What Jackson realised was that if he left so much as the width of a piece of paper between them leaving and us arriving, the Albanian KLA would have moved so damn fast and cause so much chaos to our eventual role that our position would have been untenable from the start and highly embarrassing in the end. Jackson had been talking to the KLA, not the Serbs. He was trying to catch them off guard. It worked a treat. We got there first and were there to put the KLA straight into their box when they arrived. Heard a sqeak from Kosovo since?? No. Didn't think so.
What on earth then, you might ask, is going on in Iraq. The Allies determinedly bring 30 years of tyranny to an end and then completely ignore the propensity for Muslim sectarianism to bubble back to the surface and fill the vacuum. You know well that I am not against this war, but as was said repeatedly at the time, I do find it baffling that our political leaders wander in to a place with a history like that, without the first thought given to the real job of putting the place back together again. As a result we have a laughable number of troops trying to hold it all together. We are going to lose. Shias and Sunnis will slaughter each other whether we stay or go. That is unless we take control. And I mean really take control, in a way that would make even Nero blanche.
Where am I going with all this? - Just think Blair and Brown and I'll get there in a minute.
History, both ancient and modern, is filled with examples of phenomenal tyrannies suppressing ancient sectarian feuds, only for the tyrant to die or be deposed and everything kick off again as if nothing had happened. How about Tito in Yugoslavia for one? That feud between Serbs, Muslims and Croats erupted after his death with greater ferocity than ever, and that was after 50 years of Tito's absolute rule during which they all lived "happily" side by side. You'd think we'd learn.
Well maybe, just maybe, Mr Blair and Mr Brown have learnt. All the talk on the news tonight was of Mr Blair seeing off Mr Brown. "I'm staying put!", "Bugger off Brown!", "I'm still in charge!" (at least one of those will be a headline tomorrow). But it was only yesterday that the news was full of Mr Brown postitioning himself for leadership and finally discovering his friendly sense of humour to boot.
I do hate the ridiculous fickleness and ephemeral nature of news and its reporters. Stand back. Look at that again. What do you see? Well I see two men ruling out any possibility whatsoever of a VACUUM. I am guessing here, but I'll wager it's Brown calling the shots on this one.
Hello, Mr Howard. Wakey, wakey.....................