John O’Farrell has spotted one good thing some of the mainstream seems to have missed: the end of handshake politics. The proof will, no doubt be found in the eating. Not least in the ultimate test: the long hot summer.
There is one politician on Earth that Adams has not been photographed with, and that is someone he has met hundreds of times. Tony Blair is still holding out on the final ‘historic’ snap, of him and Gerry at the door of Number 10. Perhaps Blair remembers the first time he met Adams. It was in the autumn of 1997, up in Stormont, and behind closed doors. At the press stand-up afterwards, Adams confirmed that, yes indeed, he had shaken hands with the Prime Minister.
By that time, the Prime Minister was about to do his ‘balancing’ thing, meeting the DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson at an East Belfast shopping centre to meet and shake some hands of the ‘other’ ‘community’.
Instead, Blair was ambushed by a Paisleyite rent-a-mob screaming ‘wash the blood of yer hands’, and ‘ye shook the hands of a murderer’. Blair’s security beefed him into a windowless manager’s office, whereupon Robinson narrated through a folder of photographs of the remains of IRA bomb victims.
Ten minutes later, Blair ran the gauntlet back to his car. When he reached it, he stopped, brushed away the protecting hand of a handler, and beamed a huge smile and cheery wave. I looked around to see if he had any discreet fans among the mob. He hadn’t, but he had spotted an ITN cameraman, and waved as if it was just another day’s work.
The era of hand-gesture politics is over, thankfully. That’s one good thing to celebrate.