'Events, dear boy, events, ' was how Harold Macmillan replied when someone asked the stylish Tory prime minister what kept him awake at night. He's out of fashion now because he failed to tackle those structural economic problems before Mrs Thatcher did. But he'd seen it all and he was wise.

I mentioned the quote once to erstwhile Tory minister Peter Lilley, who hadn't heard it. It may have been coincidence, but soon it was appearing in columns everywhere, like the measles. I thought of it myself at the weekend, but also of stylish premiers.

Why? Because I was summoned at short notice to accompany Tony Blair to the world economic forum in Davos.

He wanted to give an interview urging Guardian-reading Labour folk in London to vote Dobbo, not Ken. Counterproductive perhaps, but he feels strongly. So we flew to Zurich before dawn, went up the snowy mountain by military chopper, heard him speak, came down the mountain and got home for supper.

It sounds glamorous, but what struck me was the sheer physical and emotional grind of it all. 'I'm in charge of the kids tonight, ' he added. That's grim reality, far worse than in Supermac's time. In 1960 he toured Africa for a month.

What did Blair say in our chat about the NHS? Quite a lot actually. But first - events, dear boy. Within 24 hours of his baby-sitting duty, the papers were on about Mo Mowlam being upset; within 48 hours genial Peter Kilfoyle had quit the government to speak his mind on behalf of Liverpool.

Kilfoyle's loss is a blow as it underlines Millbank's fears that the kind of Labour voters who ignore council or Euro-elections will boycott the next election because they expected more for schools and the NHS. Mo is different. It's mostly gossip.

But my inquiries unearthed a useful HSJ fact, confirmed on high authority. Ms Mowlam and Mr Blair did indeed discuss her taking over health from Dobbo last October. She opted for a more wide-ranging brief as Cabinet Office enforcer.

So what did Tony Blair say about the NHS on his Davos flight? Quite a lot.

When I asked about any regrets from his first 1,000 days he denied wishing he'd spent more on public services.

Labour had to get the economy right, establish its credentials for competence and only then would steady - repeat, steady - growth money for schools, transport and the NHS start to flow.

He kept saying this, and he kept stressing the need for reform. 'Some schools with the same (social) intake perform radically differently, so do some hospitals and police units. It is a question of getting more investment, but it's also a question of reform. . . It's a third way in relation to public services, which is modernising them rather than either privatising them or simply running them in the way the public sector wants them run' - ie the BMA and Unison.

Didn't performance-based league tables, school exam results, hospital mortality rates and the like cause problems by distorting priorities?

'There are some tricky issues around that, ' he conceded, and then cited a school that had improved its GCSE pass rate eight-fold.

Did he regret the waiting-list pledge?

'Waiting lists do matter. People say they are the key thing. So you bring them down and they say you shouldn't have bothered anyway. You wouldn't