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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Tuesday, 26 September, 2006
By Jeremy Paxman
Presenter, BBC Newsnight

Tony Blair
Blair has conducted his last conference as leader and PM
Presented by Jeremy Paxman

Comment on this programme

I suppose we can expect a plethora of clichés tonight and tomorrow morning. I plan to perpetrate a few myself. Swan songs. Fat ladies singing. Running down of flags. Running up of flags. Farewell tours. Sinatra. You can knit your own.

Anyway, Blair's speech was, for my money, the most impressive conference speech in years. In a performance brimming with confidence, flashes of humour and underlain by a clear political analysis (whether you agreed with it or not) he said goodbye to Labour delegates here in Manchester. What his presumed successor made of it we don't know - Blair did praise Brown. But in another sense, the performance buried him. Comparing yesterday with today was a bit like watching Brazil play football when all you've previously seen is a team of Stoke Poges amateurs.

We will, of course, be talking about the state of the party he leaves behind, with, among others, Alastair Campbell.

In addition, we have the latest despatch from Eastwood in Nottinghamshire. It was DH Lawrence's birthplace, but he wouldn't recognise the workforce nowadays. Tonight we catch up with the workers from all over the world who have poured into the area to do the jobs which the English apparently are no longer willing to do.

Justin Rowlatt has come to Manchester to explain to Labour delegates the idiosyncratic thrills of his ethical life: we'll be seeing how he got on.

By the way, if the state of the government is anything like the state of the party's internal organisation, the new leader has work to do. First thing this morning I bumped into friend who has been a Labour member for thirty years and even represented it in parliament. They have failed to issue her with a pass to get into the conference hall. Then I stood behind Cherie Blair's mother as a policeman refused her admission to the conference venue at all - wrong entrance, apparently. At least she'd been given a pass: yesterday there were people (who had been charged a small fortune for the privilege of a pass) who spent most of the day standing in line. Coupled with yesterday's handling of the Cherie Blair 'that's a lie story' story - which ten years ago would have been asphyxiated by Alastair Campbell - and you begin to wonder.

Value for money

Not as much as you sometimes wonder about the BBC, of course, which chose the time of Blair's speech to tell its staff of the latest round of redundancies in something called a Value for Money initiative, which is another way of talking about the management's desire for cuts. Don't you dare accuse them of trying to 'bury bad news.' It means two reporter posts and two production posts on Newsnight vanishing.

Health and safety

By the way, Granada Television are holding a party in one of their studios for Labour. There were plans for Hazel Blears to arrive riding a Harley Davidson, but the Health and Safety commissars nixed that. Whose health? And whose safety? Labour, meantime, has been demanding to vet the songs which will be played at the party. Holding out for a Hero has been banned. Seriously.

It's hard to let go, admits Blair
26 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
In full: Tony Blair's speech
26 Sep 06 |  UK Politics

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