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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Conference offcuts
BBC News Online's running diary of some of the offbeat sights and sounds from conference week.

Young at heart?: A distinct drop in the average age at conference on Thursday as a busload of students were welcomed into the conference hall. But not all of them were entirely gripped by events (see below).

Ovation watch: A reasonable showing for David Blunkett on Thursday, but not up to Blair standards.

Health watch: The St John Ambulance and Dorset Ambulance workers report an outbreak of sore feet. It's a big centre, after all. And one lady who was so stressed by conference she needed a massage.

There were also several requests for post-party paracetamol.

Overheard: An opera singer has been heard rehearsing a stirring rendition of the Red Flag - but conference organisers may be keeping their options for the closing ceremony open as an equally passionate version of the hymn Jerusalem was also overheard.

Giving up: Health Secretary John Reid has quit - smoking that is. Mr Reid told conference he had given up nicotine nine months ago. "It's a struggle but I'm getting there," he said.

Not all the students on Thursday were gripped
Ovation watch: John Reid did well - a one minute standing ovation, much better than Charles Clarke with a 30 second seated ovation.

Spotted: Former TGWU leader Sir Bill Morris - who made his last conference speech on Wednesday - jogging along the seafront.

Back to basics: Jonathan Powell, the Downing Street aide who appeared at the Hutton inquiry with a new acquisition - a full beard - has gone back to his fresh-faced former self. See picture for proof of the transformation.

Ovation watch:Tony Blair won the battle of the applause by a mile: seven-and-a-half minutes, and half the time he wasn't even in the room, returning to take a bow as the clapping continued.

Sparks flying: The Guardian newspaper handed out leaflets before Tony Blair's big speech telling delegates when to cheer.

Back to basics for Jonathan Powell
But the spoof was reported by other newspapers as being an official initiative - prompting Labour to demand an apology from the Guardian.

More sparks: Many delegates were unhappy they were unable to get in to the conference hall to see Mr Blair's speech.

It seemed that far more tickets were issued than there were spaces in the hall, leading to some upset as those deprived the chance to see their leader had to find the nearest television.

Buzzwords: The Fabian Society ran a game called Buzzword Bingo for the speech - delegates had to match as many words on they game card as possible.

By our reckoning the top score was just four.
Leaders' wives

Fashion stakes: Cherie Blair - now in Moscow at the invitation of President Putin's other half - outdid deputy PM's wife Pauline Prescott in the pearls-stakes during the PM's speech, as our picture shows.

Selling like hot cakes: The famous packs of cards issued by the US showing Iraq's most-wanted are selling well at the Politicos conference bookshop.

Pretty well, at least - but it's nothing on last week in Brighton where the...hmmm...anti-war Lib Dems were stocking up for Christmas stocking fillers.

Globetrotters: The prize for the longest journey to conference goes to the Falkland Islands government - one representative has swapped his 64 square mile sheep farm for a tiny corner of the Bournemouth centre.

Freebie: Undoubtedly the best offering from the many stands packing the centre are the squeezy toy trains from rail union Aslef.

Best spoof?: The biggest draw on the fringe on Monday night was a meeting entitled "is the BBC impartial?" with guest star speaker... Alastair Campbell.

Scores of hacks made their way to the meeting room, and only started to smell a rat when they discovered the room was barely big enough to hold 10 people and, in any case, was locked.

Close shave?: We've had the blood and the tears, all we need now is the sweat. One delegate was so moved by Gordon Brown's speech that she broke down and cried. And then John Prescott appeared with what seemed like blood on his collar.

Ovation watch: John Prescott enjoyed a 45 second standing ovation after his speech, Gordon Brown overtook him with two minutes, but Tony Blair won the most claps with a seven-minute standing ovation.

Best joke: Health Secretary John Reid was speaking at a fringe event on Monday when the sound of bottles crashing to the ground was heard outside the room.

Just as I reach my crescendo, said Mr Reid, "a Scotsman drops his carry outs".

Top of the bill: A step back time at the leader's reception on Tuesday. The event, one of the most popular of the week, features music from The Animals.

Taking over?: Labour isn't just having its conference at the Bournemouth International Centre - it's putting its seal on the place. Posters celebrating what the party believes it has achieved in government have been put up all over the building. And "Labour" stickers even grace the mirrors in the toilets.

Grumble: How times change. One delegate was heard complaining that he couldn't get a bacon sarnie from a conference cafe. What's wrong with a lemon spiced chicken ciabatta?

Spotted: Anthony H Wilson, of New Order and Hacienda fame - and portrayed by Steve Coogan in the 24 Hour Party People film - taking tea in the sun on Bournemouth's seafront.

Fashion: Many of the stands at conference offer free carrier bags, pens and notebooks. Accessory of the week, as at the Lib Dems in Brighton, are the sturdy bags offered by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Rival attractions: It's freshers' week in Bournemouth - so the streets are lined at night with people stumbling back to their beds after a night on the tiles. And lots of students too.

Spotted: Paymaster general Dawn Primarolo sporting an impressive pair of gem-encrusted cowboy boots.


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