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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Delegates cheer public service drive

With Tony Blair looking sweaty under the glare of the stage lights, BBC News Online took the temperature on the conference floor as the ovation for his speech dwindled away.

South Derbyshire councillor Katherine Lauro, 58, was among the many delegates hailing the prime minister's effort as a very good speech and a supremely confident performance.
Katherine Lauro: Praised public service message

Mr Blair renewed his commitment to improving public services while refusing to budge, despite union demands, on using private money in public services.

That passage particularly pleased Cllr Lauro, who said: "As a local councillor I see people want these services and they are not really bothered about who's the provider."

At the same time, Mr Blair had been wise to pledge to protect the working conditions of public services.

There was praise too from Frank Reeves, 73, from Liverpool, who dubbed the speech "absolutely excellent".

Frank Reeves
Frank Reeves: Right to be tough on crime
Mr Reeves was especially impressed by Mr Blair's stress on giving more help to pensioners, tackling "thugs while taking away money from drug dealers".

But the words on public services did not impress everybody, such as Katie Inman, from London.

Katie Inman
Katie Inman: Disappointed over student finance
She criticised Mr Blair for trying to reassure people over the short-term problems with A-Level marking while failing to offer any comfort to students racking up thousands of pounds in debt when they reached university.

Saying she was unsure what to make of the speech overall, Ms Inman added: "There was a lot of spin."

Meanwhile, James Conway, 58, from Stourbridge, complained that he had learned nothing new and Mr Blair was still taking the wrong line over private finance initiatives for building public service facilities.

James Conway
James Conway: Learnt nothing new
On the left of the party, Mr Conway wanted a more cooperative approach to improve public services.

The government was offering that in some schemes but Mr Blair had not trumpeted that policy in his speech, said Mr Conway.

There was a mixed reaction to the parts of the speech devoted to international affairs.

Mary Budda, 65, from the Scarborough and Whitby Labour Party, paid compliments to the tactics rather than the content.

Mary Budda
Mary Budda: Good tactics, wrong message
"I thought he was very clever getting the Iraq question out of the way first of all and then ending up with the more popular things," said Ms Budda, who used to be on CND's national council.

"I have a lot of respect for him in some ways. But I don't respect anyone who is prepared to go to war and kill so many innocent people."

Haris Sophoclides, 65, instead said he was particularly happy that Mr Blair had added his own voice again to his ministers' insistence that United Nations resolutions must be upheld.

Haris Sophoclides
Haris Sophoclides: UN emphasis is right
That was particularly important for Mr Sophoclides because of his concerns about the way UN resolutions had been broken in his home country, Cyprus.

"I think it was generally a good speech and a bit of a change to hear a speech that started on world affairs and ended with the usual stuff," he added.

Did Blair's speech convince you?



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01 Oct 02 | Education
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