Politics: Labour aims to steal the Tory limelight

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The Independent Online
Ministers are planning a hectic round of high-profile announcements in an attempt to overshadow the Conservative Party's annual conference in Blackpool this week.

In a move which mirrors tactics more likely to have been used by the Tories against Labour in the past, a wave of official visits and launches will accompany the Opposition's seaside jamboree.

The highlight of the week for Tony Blair will come tomorrow, with the much-hyped announcement of pounds 100m extra cash towards the installation of a network of computers in schools. Coincidentally, tomorrow is the day on which the Tory faithful will open their conference and hear the results of their ballot on William Hague's leadership and on party reform.

Mr Blair will announce the extra cash as he holds a meeting at Downing Street with the Microsoft boss, Bill Gates. Mr Gates has not yet promised to get involved with the scheme to connect 32,000 schools to the latest computer technology, but the clever money says he very soon will do. David Blunkett, Margaret Beckett and Gordon Brown are also expected to be present at the meeting.

Also tomorrow Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health, will give an address to the public sector union, Unison.

On Wednesday, as the Conservatives hold their big debate on the future of the party and its internal reforms, there is a plan to launch a new charter for the National Health Service .On Thursday, as the Tories talk about crime and the economy, a further consultation will be launched on the future of A-Levels.

Friday will see the highlight of the Tories' week in Blackpool, as William Hague gives his first address to the party faithful as leader. On the same day, Mr Blair will fly out to Luxembourg en route to a Council of Europe summit in Strasbourg on Saturday.

All this simply constitutes business as usual, of course. Given the hectic pace of life under new Labour, some might even say that it will not be a particularly busy week.

- Fran Abrams