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banner Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
The return of the Kinnockites

By BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder

Now that the Labour party conference is over the political gossips have turned their attention to the next government reshuffle.

Cabinet changes are traditionally made in the summer, but Mr Blair has so far resisted the temptation to tinker and there have been suggestions there will not be one this year.

But that has only encouraged conspiracy theorists to speculate that he may have something up his sleeve - possibly a reshuffle during William Hague's party conference speech next week.

There are whispers that he wants to move Mo Mowlam out of her job as cabinet enforcer before she quits at the election and even that Dome minister Lord Falconer may finally get dumped.

It all seems a bit unlikely, however, as it would smack of panic. But the speculation is still good fun.

But whenever the reshuffle does eventually come it's a good bet that one select group of junior ministers will get promotion - the old Kinnockites.

The likes of Home Office minister Charles Clarke and Trade minister Patricia Hewitt were at the heart of the Neil Kinnock-led Labour party - and they have become the rising stars of Tony Blair's front bench.

They have performed well in their jobs and, crucially, they have nerves of steel.

These are the people who cut their teeth in the party's bleakest times and they are well used to battling through adversity.

The current government's troubles will worry them, of course, but they can be relied upon to take the heat and hold their nerve.

Tony Blair would do far worse than to put them in key positions in the run-up to the next election.

Wrong man

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson
Mandelson and the wrong leader
There have been a lot of rumblings inside the Labour party about Tony Blair's leadership during the current crisis - but some observers were astonished to hear Peter Mandelson openly challenging him on TV.

Being interviewed in the minutes before Mr Blair's fightback conference speech, he kept declaring that the government had got the wrong Tone.

Oh, I see what he meant.

Chris cross

One of Brighton's most famous and flamboyant figures - and that's saying something in this town - is former boxer Chris Eubank.

He loves nothing more than promenading along the sea front waiting for people to mob him.

Chris Eubank
Eubank: conference appearance
Apparently one of his favourite pastimes, when not driving his big truck, used to be walking along the front chattering into a mobile phone.

One more than one occasion passers-by were astonished when, in the middle of his conversation, the phone actually rang.

So it was no surprise that on the opening day of the party conference he swept into the Grand Hotel where ministers, MPs and ordinary party members were partying at the ridiculously expensive bar.

He walked slowly past the crowd but went completely un-mobbed and wasn't seen again until he hijacked a picture opportunity with Nelson Mandela.

All of Brighton is now asking, who was than man with Nelson Mandela.

Dodgy policy

Policy documents being handed out by Labour at the party conference all go under the title "building a future for all."

One has attracted particular attention as it appears to be suggesting a radical solution to unemployment.

It is entitled: "Building a future for all: crime."

Uncivil service

The life of a civil servant is never an easy one - and working for Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has more than its fair share of problems.

When Mr Cook was due to make a conference speech on Yugoslavia he needed his aide Richard Wood at his side.

Mr Wood duly travelled to the Brighton conference to support his boss but was offered no concessions by the Labour party.

He had to pay 50 out of his own pocket for a conference pass before being allowed into the centre.

A spin too far

The day before the prime minister makes his keynote conference speech, political journalists are given a briefing by a Downing Street spin doctor.

Trade Secretary Stephen Byers
Byers: No spin here
This year the spokesman was asked whether the prime minister believed this was the most important speech of his political career. The response was dismissive.

"Those people in the media who are saying that are the same people who are constantly writing nonsense about the prime minister's worst week ever," he sneered.

So who was it who said on the morning of the speech: "I think this is one of the most important speeches he has made as leader of the Labour party and prime minister"?

None other than Trade Secretary Stephen Byers.

No way out

Security at this year's Labour conference is the tightest it has ever been.

A huge wire fence has been thrown around, not only the conference centre itself, but also the Grand and Metropole hotels next door.

It has been a nightmare getting in and out of the cordon and everybody has their own story about policemen telling them they cannot leave the area through the open door to the street right in front of them.

Everyone understands the need for the security when entering the complex, but no one has yet properly explained why leaving the security area should be a problem.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when one delegate was searching for the way out only to be told by a WPC: "Sorry sir, someone has stolen our exit sign."

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