Labour Party Conference: Michael Brown's Notebook - Trimble revels in smoothest ride

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The Independent Online
DAVID TRIMBLE, Northern Ireland's First Minister, was staying in Poole, 10 miles outside Bournemouth, before his kiss-and-make-up session with Mo Mowlam at the "Ulster Fry" breakfast hosted by the Sports Minister, Kate Hoey.

Minders were anxious that he should arrive at the five-star Royal Bath Hotel in reasonable style and politely asked the taxi firm for an improvement on the normal G-reg Datsun Sunny models that clatter around Bournemouth, smelling of stale cigarettes. Mr Trimble was taken aback, however, when the taxi firm sent round a gleaming 1936 white Rolls-Royce, complete with a bouquet on the back seat.

So impressed was Mr Trimble that he made the chauffeur drive him round one roundabout three times to show off his new status. The comfortable ride paid dividends as he arrived at the hotel in a good mood with smiles and handshakes for Ms Mowlam, who had been anxious about the type of reception that he would give to her.

JOHN PRESCOTT'S speech- writers appear finally to have found the solution to resolving his argument with the English language.

Instead of waiting for him to read his speeches out wrongly, they put the errors in the text, so that when he says the opposite he's actually reading out what was meant.

Two mistakes appeared in the printed text of yesterday's speech that was issued to the press. Yet when he spoke, it all faultlessly tripped off the Deputy Prime Minister's tongue.

When talking about William Hague's local authority of North Yorkshire, the written script said: "We gave the council nearly a billion pounds from the rural bus fund."

Mr Prescott, who can usually be guaranteed to trip over his billions and millions, delivered the line using "million" - the correct answer.

Later, the text said: "I do not take exception to suggestions that I might be soft on [air passenger] safety." Mr Prescott skipped over the word "not" - delivering the line as was probably intended.

FRANK DOBSON is determined to set himself a better example by giving up his life-time attachment to sausage rolls, chip butties and all other things fattening and unhealthy.

Unfortunately, his good intentions were thwarted at the conference cafeteria when he spied a pile of healthy-looking apples.

"I'm sorry, sir, they are on display and not for sale," he was told by the assistant. In desperation, our new healthy Health Secretary was reduced to nicking an apple from the Royal Bath Hotel fruit bowls.

LABOUR PARTY stewards at the security checkpoint, outside the conference hotel, delight in showing off to each other which cabinet ministers and big cheeses they have "bagged" during the extensive security checks from which only the Prime Minister is exempt.

"I searched Gordon Brown," vies with "I got two cabinet ministers and Peter Mandelson."

But when Alastair Campbell went through the check, one delegate - noting the stewards' bragging - suggested that he ought to rank in their competition.

Unfortunately, they replied, they had never heard of him and did not recognise him.

DELEGATES have spent much time mulling over Tony Blair's declaration in his conference speech that the class war is over.

"Who won?" asked some sceptical delegates in the bars yesterday.

The New Labour answer is: "Yes, it is over and the middle classes won."

Old Labour MPs such as Ronnie Campbell of Blyth Valley, however, are far from convinced, and, in any event, were still cheering "Up the workers!" over their pints.