Labour celebrates without style

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The Independent Online
AS a news event, Labour's first anniversary rated the headline: "Small celebration somewhere in the North. Not many drunk." In a frenzy of anti-triumphalism, Tony Blair's minders decreed that the highlight of his day should be a meeting with readers of regional newspapers. "I can't see in his diary an opportunity for champagne," a spokesman noted. Mr Blair spent the day working in Downing Street, breaking only to meet winners of a newspaper competition. The only liquid refreshment was tea.

The party was riding high in the polls and there was plenty to celebrate. But the nearest thing to an anniversary bash was a dinner in Newcastle, hosted by Mo Mowlam and featuring Peter Mandelson as after-dinner speaker. A spokeswoman said, the dinner was an annual event and did not constitute an official commemoration of last year's victory.

Mr Blair spent the evening in The Hague at a Labour Day event organised by the Dutch Prime Minister, Wim Kok. Before leaving, he gave an anniversary television interview in which he confided that his true "passions" were hospitals and schools. There had been a "good start but there's a lot more to do".

The Conservatives toned down their own anniversary bash, presumably to chime with Labour's low-key approach. A press conference originally billed as starring William Hague promised an opportunity to help the Government "blow out their candles". It was actually fronted by Peter Lilley, shadow chancellor, and Francis Maude, shadow culture minister. For a moment it seemed they might expose clandestine revelling in Labour ranks. But it turned out that when Mr Maude said he had 40 examples of ministers "up to their neck in the trough," he meant power had gone to Labour's head. No, the Conservatives were clearly as disappointed as the rest of the country.

Man of the moment, page 17