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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Conference diary: Monday
BBC News Online's Brian Wheeler takes a look at some of the highlights - and low moments - of Labour's annual conference at Brighton.

Monday, 27 September


Peter Mandelson may have gone to Brussels, but he will not be forgotten. Not if he can help it, anyway.

Peter Mandelson
Mandelson hopes absence will make the heart grow fonder
In a moment that would have melted the hardest of hearts, the erstwhile Prince of Darkness made a plea to a fringe meeting for his Labour comrades to think of their old friend Peter once in a while.

"I hope after I have been shunted off to Brussels, people will remember their forgotten hero," he told the gathering of "modernisers" which included Cabinet bigwigs John Reid, Peter Hain and Patricia Hewitt.

He even suggested certain people might look more favourably on him in his absence - before making a blatant pitch to be invited back next year.

Not having second thoughts already, Peter?


In his former life, as Blackadder's dimwitted sidekick Baldrick, Tony Robinson was not exactly known for his eloquence.

But now that the actor is a big wheel on Labour's ruling national executive, he seems to have added dictionaries to his staple diet of turnips.

Introducing Peter Mandelson, Peter Hain and Patricia Hewitt at a Progress fringe meeting, he described the trio as Labour's most "discursive" ministers. Cue blank looks all round.

"It means you are argumentative buggers," he explained to a puzzled Peter Hain.


Campaigning to save a Jaguar plant threatened with closure? Looking for a bit of coverage in the tabloids?

It has to be a job for John "two jags" Prescott.

The deputy prime minister is "damn proud" of his association with the marque, apparently, and was only too happy to oblige.

And - just to give the headline writers something to work with - there was only one Jaguar present. Well done that press officer.


This has to be the football match between the women's press gallery and a team of female MPs.

The hacks' team is in its infancy and has so far, I am told, lost every game it has played.

But perhaps they just needed some opposition with a bit of history. Derby matches always bring out the best in players.

And according to News Online's man on the touchline in the sheepskin coat, this was a particularly full-blooded encounter.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell was the victim of a particularly brutal tackle, I am told, which sent her tumbling to the ground in pain (and saw her resorting to some very unparliamentary language).

But Ms Jowell's bruised shins - and battered pride - could not prevent her team losing 2-0 to the hacks. Roll-on the return leg.


Cherie Blair speaks! Except she doesn't.

Conference fever struck early yesterday, when word got round the press room that the prime minister's wife was going to make a speech at a fringe event.

No one knows where the rumour started, but it led to reporters from two of Britain's most esteemed media organisations (ahem) gloomily kicking their heels as Mrs Blair worked the room, conspicuously not delivering a speech.

In the end, Mrs Blair did her speech on Monday, at a local primary school, before playing goldilocks with three children dressed as bears.


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