Drunks are common in leicester Square, London, where the concentration of theaters, cheap restaurants and pubs draws a crowd of revelers every evening. It didn't surprise police there last Wednesday when a woman pointed out a young man lying face down on the pavement, vomit on his trousers, close to unconscious. They radioed for an ambulance. When the paramedics decided he didn't need their help, the youth was arrested for being "drunk and incapable" and taken to the local station. There he gave his name as Euan John, 18, and an address in North London.
Except, as the police discovered by searching his pockets, the boy who drank too much was really Euan Blair, 16, of 10 Downing St., son of a Prime Minister who can't seem to catch a break these days.
This hardly unusual rite of adolescence was a problem for Tony Blair in several dimensions. Euan himself, said to have been celebrating with friends the end of his exams, was driven home at 1 a.m. by detectives and went woozily to bed. Because he lied to the police, he could have been prosecuted. Both parents accompanied him to a meeting with police on Friday, where he received a reprimand instead. A good student and likable boy who has never been in such trouble before, that should be the end of it.
Alastair Campbell, the Downing St. spokesman, pointed out that while Euan was not likely to have been the only teenager hung over after celebrating the end of exams, "he would be the only one whose picture was splashed all over the papers and television." Indeed the reaction of most commentators was sympathy for the Blairs. But only the previous week, responding to public rage about football hooligans, the Prime Minister had proposed giving the police powers to "levy on-the-spot fines for drunken, noisy, loutish and antisocial behavior," and if necessary escort them to cash machines to collect. That proposal was rejected by police as impractical and by Conservatives as a gimmick. While Euan's peaceful sprawl was not the kind of offense the fines were intended to cover, his arrest made Blair seem doubly hapless.
For several weeks he has looked rattled and tired. He was occasionally close to tears during a speech the morning after Euan's arrest. His cabinet is fighting over the euro and the Tories are drawing blood with attacks on his trustworthiness. Blair quoted Longfellow in his speech: "For thine own purpose, thou has sent/The strife and the discouragement!"
Polls show that voters increasingly dislike Blair's moralizing tone; thus it may not hurt him to be seen as more fallible. It would be ironic if the strife Euan has sent can persuade people that his dad is a regular guy with problems like everyone else's. But if so, Blair may one day have reason to buy his son a drink. One.