It may have appeared in the Daily Mail but nonetheless the story is true. I can authoritatively confirm that our former Dear Leader Anthony Wedgewood Blair was within an inch of a real breakthrough in his Middle East talks. Yes, concerned readers, old jug-ears was on the brink of a settlement that could have established that first longed-for Tesco Express in Ramallah.

We can only imagine the disappointment felt by hard-pressed Palestinian families deprived of the opportunity to collect double Clubcard points on their kibbee-flavoured pop tarts. And my, how their hopes were raised! For did not Tone bring peace to Northern Ireland and cool to Britannia? I have it on good authority that Hamas were prepared to lay down arms and Israel was ready to demolish its settlements but tragically a bogof on falafel fritters from Al Tel proved a bridge too far.

So what went wrong? I did have the opportunity to pop the question to Tony while he was on a glad-handing tour of Brussels to shore up his dwindling support in the election for Grand Nabob of Strasbourg. Actually the former Pee Em is an old mate of mine from way back we studied Applied Leninism together at Pyongyang Poly so as we shared a three-star dinner at Comme Chez Soi he spilled the beans (haricots verts in this case).

Turns out t'was the sheikhs themselves who pulled the plug at the last minute, Tone recounted. There they all were round the boardroom table at the Hebron Quality Inn - Tone in his ghutrah, Tel in his traditional Scouse shell suit and Cherie in her slinky veil - and within a few camels of a deal when Tony pulled his masterstroke. A concealed band struck up a traditional belly-dancing number and a figure arose from Tone's side and began to gyrate seductively before the astonished Palestinian posse. "Well, Cherie's still a fine-looking woman", I interjected. "Surely that would seal the deal."

Tone shook his head sadly. Cherie never got a look in. And, frankly, Tel needs to work on his moves.

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