Blair's office asks for the funny side

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The Independent Online
Labour has asked a television producer to find jokes to liven up Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party conference next week, it was claimed last night.

Geoff Atkinson, producer of Channel 4's Rory Bremner Show, said he had received a faxed request from the Labour leader's aide Jonathan Powell.

The letter suggested jokes centred on "the Tory Year", highlighting the defections of Alan Howarth and Emma Nicholson, Maurice Saatchi's peerage, bosses of privatised utilities, Michael Portillo, Secretary of State for Defence, the Divorce Bill, ID cards and the beef crisis.

Mr Atkinson criticised the request and said of Mr Blair's approach: "It is not done with finesse or style and he is turning the speech into the Two Ronnies."

A spokesman for Mr Blair's office said: "It is a shame that Mr Atkinson does not share Rory Bremner's sense of humour."