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And Tony's cronies spoke: 'Thou shalt not criticise the Tate Modern!'

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It took great courage to praise the Tate Modern last week, but our corps of celebrities, politicos, critics, commentators and liggers rose to the occasion.

'Praise and be damned!' was the order. 'No more Dome fiasco-type stories.' And everyone made haste to obey, including the Queen (patron saint of the RIBA, in case you had forgotten), who went so far as to share a joke with Bridget Riley.

So much praise was on order that the Evening Standard announced that London was the greatest city on earth - a position from which there is only one exit.

Not having been invited to the opening party, I offer the following conjecture of what might have happened there . . .

Half way through the proceedings a rumour spread that 30,000 jobless car workers and their suppliers, egged on by disaffected union organisers (who had not been invited to the party either), were advancing in a pincer movement from Longbridge to the West of the capital and Dagenham to the East, intent on sacking the new palace of culture. This news sent a tremor through the cavernous building and one or two weak spirits glanced anxiously towards the cloakrooms. But the tremor was short, not more than 6 on the Herzog and de Meuron scale, and the moment found the man.

A fearless architectural critic, punch drunk with superlatives, sprang onto a balustrade to harangue the crowd: 'Find a time when London last saw a work of architecture this big and this good, ' he shrilled. 'Yet there are unbelievers out there for whom it is just a big pile of old bricks! The Dome has interest-free loans shovelled into it while anything northern and vaguely ecological is drowned in millions, but a building that will be visited by millions of people for ever and for no charge, and which is truly the envy of the world, had to scrimp and save and make painful cuts!'

'Painful cuts! Oh painful cuts!' came cries from the hall. 'Shame! Shame!'

At this a second figure, not unknown in the field of rock and roll, leaped onto the balustrade alongside the critic. 'Where do all these pictures come from?' he demanded of the spellbound throng. 'I say it's great to see them out!'

Then an illustrious architect was helped onto the balustrade by loyal members of his family.

'This is the most important cultural happening probably this century!' he ventured, to thunderous applause (implicitly endorsing the critic's strictures on the greatest dome in history, and indeed tempting providence for the next 99 years). 'Certainly it is an event on a scale that we have never seen in England.'

And so the champagne flowed on, faster and faster, and the laughter grew more and more brittle until the organisers found out that the thousands of sinister figures in the streets between Southwark underground station and Shakespeare's Globe were not rebellious car workers at all, but art lovers, waiting patiently to enter the great gallery the following day, after the celebrity revellers had gone home.

At this news a great roar of laughter went up. For then all present in the building knew that this really had been the high point of the post-industrial economy, and they had been there and they had done it and the people outside had not.

Tony Blair too sensed this moment. Warned by his security advisers not to attempt the balustrade, he ran instead to one of the Louise Bourgeois spiral stairs. Reaching the top among the mirrors, he turned to address the multitude like Lenin and cried: 'Now look!'

And they did, as hard as they could, but all they could see was that nothing was there. And it was architecture that had done it.

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