By Ben Davies
BBC News website political reporter, in Brighton
Ian McCartney appeared before TUC delegates on Tuesday and told them he was
"standing proud" - still excited by Labour winning a third term in power.
Mr McCartney said Labour must not be seen as a safety valve
A long time union member, McCartney is a genuinely popular figure among many
here at the conference in Brighton but he still had a tough job to do.
Many aspects of New Labour's record are less than popular not least with
unions affiliated to the party.
So he did what all good speakers do. He began with a few jokes.
He hailed the recent epic sporting battle that had just seen victory
delivered to a delighted nation - Scotland, who won at football against
Norway by two goals to one.
Then, and you don't get many politicians who are genuinely able to be
self-deprecating, he went on to have a pop at himself.
He told delegates that like many of them he had experienced difficulties
with management in the past - a reference to newspaper stories he was to
lose his job as Labour chairman.
On one occasion he was summoned and told by his boss that for the first time
he intended to mix business with pleasure telling him: "You're fired."
McCartney then quipped he and Tony Blair had since made up.
Then he turned his sights on Gordon Brown, who just a few hours earlier had
made his own speech to the TUC.
McCartney recalled how, invited to address the chancellor's constituency,
he had popped around to Brown's house only to find him stripping the
"Are you redecorating?" the Labour chairman asked.
"No," replied the chancellor, "I'm moving house."
Apparently proof that prudence begins at home.
McCartney said that after several years as a minister he had got to know
people in the civil service pretty well and he hailed their efforts in
helping run the country - even if some "fat guy" came along afterwards to
take all the credit.
Then the serious message followed. The labour movement had to look and sound
like the people it represented and just 10% of young workers were union
And he warned critics that "in this family of ours there are people who
still think a Labour government is a luxury".
Tories were "anti-union to their fingertips" he said and it was offensive to
call New Labour policies either Thatcherite or neo-liberal.
Labour must not be seen as a "safety valve" that holds power for a few
years, tears itself apart and then loses control to the Conservatives.
"Don't let's talk ourselves out of government," he cautioned.
The speech was greeted with polite applause before he was given a gold TUC
badge in recognition of his position as Labour's fraternal delegate.
McCartney said he was honoured to receive the badge and said his Dad - a
union member of some 71 years standing - was watching.
Audibly touched, he added: "He's not very well just now. I just want to say
Dad this is for you."