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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Minute-by-minute: Blair speech
Here is BBC News Online's Brian Wheeler's minute-by-minute guide to Tony Blair's keynote conference speech:

14.20 Feeling a vague sense of anticipation as I take up a position on the media balcony in good time for Mr Blair's big speech. But that's hardly surprising because, whatever your political persuasion, the whole leader's speech experience is scientifically choreographed to generate a sense of anticipation. The hall is packed. There is an expectant hum in the air. Uplifting music is pumping out. Pink's Coming Up, The Levellers' Beautiful Day - (containing the immortal line "wealth redistribution becomes the new solution" - are they trying to tell us something?). The atmosphere is somewhere between a wedding, with people making polite small talk and standing up to let other people shuffle to their seats, and a heavyweight boxing promotion.

14.22 The undercard (to use a boxing term) starts to file in, one by one. Cherie Blair walks through the crowd from a side entrance, to warm applause, and takes up her seat at the front, where she gossips with Pauline Prescott. A group of party worthies have been parked in chairs on the main platform, behind Mr Blair's lectern, leaving the leader's podium in a forward position (it's all about symbolism) surrounded by the faithful.


14.24 Neil Kinnock enters to a round of applause, followed a moment or two later by wife Glenys. There is a moment of confusion as the Kinnocks take up seats reserved for the cabinet and are led to seats in the body of the hall. Another round of applause. They are followed a few minutes later by John Prescott.


14.29 Finally, the chairwoman introduces "our leader, and the prime minister Tony Blair". The crowd go wild.


14.34 Tony Blair enters the hall. For the past few minutes the crowd has been treated to a dazzling electronic roll call of Labour's supposed achievements in office ("Better GP surgeries!", "Broadband for all rural communities!") to the sound of Fatboy Slim's Right Here, Right Now.

14.35 Having made it to the stage, after a very boxing-promotion-style walk through the crowd, Sugar Ray Blair takes a moment to soak up the acclaim.

14.36 He begins his speech.

14.37 First joke (a one he has used before about this being his hardest week, until his next one).

14.37.5 First ripple of applause (at the mention of veteran trade unionist Rodney Bickerstaffe).

14.38 First protester is ejected from the hall. What turns out later to be an anti-war demonstrator is bundled out of the hall by fluorescent-bibbed security guards and burly special branch types. The shaven-headed protester is shouting something about Mr Blair and "blood on your hands". You are lucky to be living in a democracy, a grinning Mr Blair tells him.

14.38 First mention of Labour's "historic third term".

14.42 First, somewhat muffled, whoop from the audience, as Mr Blair mentions London mayor Ken Livingstone ("Red Ken frightened people, even those as brave as your own leader")

14.46 Gushing tributes to John and Gordon ("a personal friend for 20 years" and "the best chancellor this country has ever had")


14.53 Protest number two. A sudden burst of shouting and a group of about half a dozen people get up to leave (a very British protest). One very angry man in a suit - who must have been queuing very early this morning to get that seat - is pointing at Mr Blair and shouting something. Mr Blair is initially knocked off his stride, but quickly adopts his best "is everything alright here, officer?" smirk, as the protesters are manhandled out of the hall. "If there are any more of you, do you mind standing up now," he says, attempting to regain his composure.

14.55 Mr Blair's attempts to carry on are undermined by what sounds like a distant car alarm. For a moment we could be on one of those problem estates Mr Blair is always visiting to talk about "anti-social behaviour". But rather than doing the rhetorical equivalent of sticking his head out of the bedroom window in his string vest to yell at it to shut up, Mr Blair manfully ploughs on with the speech. For a few seconds anyway. "I want the sort of Britain....in which that doesn't go off all the time," he says attempting a smile. It later turns out that the protesters have cunningly left an alarm in the hall, to carry on their work after they have been ejected into the car park. As security guards flap about at the back of the hall frantically trying to find - and then silence - the device, Mr Blair is forced to ad lib. "If I wasn't so technologically challenged, I could tell you what it is that's doing it". But his patience has been sorely tried. You can tell.

15.01 A Sun newspaper moment. Mr Blair has "ten things" that Labour would do in a third term (As opposed to 10 things you didn't know about Jordan's boobs, or whatever).

15.13 A strange hush descends, as Mr Blair mentions Iraq for the first time. Will he apologise?

15.18 A visibly relieved Mr Blair takes a sip of water, as he reaches the end of his mea nearly culpa on the war.

15.23 The bridge between Europe and the US. Now he is starting to hit his stride. We start to see some of the old Blair passion.

15.25 He has changed - not as a man, a family man, but as a leader, he says. He has learned to stand by his decisions. Conference not sure about this. Limp applause.

15.30 At last. Mr Blair jettisons his verbs! His sentences shrink! But just as he is about to go into a stratosphere of "young Britain. new Britain", the speech ends, with an exhortation to get on with the job of winning a third term.

15.33 After soaking up the party faithful acclaim for a few minutes, and beckoning Cherie - and John and Pauline Prescott (Wot no Gordon?) - on to the platform to join him, he starts to leave the hall.

15.34 Blair moves slowly out of the hall to the strains of Steve Winwood's Valerie. Can't help thinking Winwood had a bigger hit with "Higher Love", but as the ovation subsides to a something only slightly quicker than a slow handclap, before dying away altogether, not sure this would be appropriate.




WATCH AND LISTEN
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