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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Reading between the lines
By Mark Davies
BBC News Online political reporter in Bournemouth

It was the talk of the party circuit in Bournemouth: Gordon Brown's conference speech and all the hidden messages they suggested it contained.

Late into the night in the packed Highcliff Hotel bar, the speech - and the one which will follow from Tony Blair - was the hot topic.

And among Blairites there were emotions ranging from mild ridicule to out-right anger at what was seen as a coded claim on the Labour leadership.

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Brownites, meanwhile, were naturally delighted at the warm reception their man received in the conference hall.

It was the same on Tuesday morning. As delegates took in the newspaper headlines, the debate continued about the futures of Mr Blair and Mr Brown.

Someone not well versed in the world of politics would have been pretty bewildered by the way so much is read into a single speech.

There were the repeated mentions of "Labour" - i.e. not "New Labour".

There was the echo of Mr Blair's speech last year - Labour being best at its boldest - with the added rider, "best when we're Labour".

The chatter on the party circuit was clear: it was a direct challenge to the prime minister.

With their leader still working on his own big speech, Blairites complained about that, naturally, but also suggested there was no real substance to the speech.

'High-bred horses'

The response from the Brown camp was to point to the reception the speech received from delegates.

Former party leader Neil Kinnock suggested, however, that the interpretation of Mr Brown's speech was getting out of hand.

Mr Blair and his chancellor were "high-bred horses pulling in the same harness", he said.

People could spend too much time reading things into Mr Brown's words.

He can say that, of course - but it won't stop people doing it.


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