Labour in Blackpool/ Conference Notebook: 'Bobby' dazzles in ritzy regime

THE PROFESSOR of Spin Doctoring, Peter Mandelson, has been taking an unusually high profile in spinning for Tony Blair at the party conference.

Neil Kinnock's former aide, who has slipped effortlessly into a similar role with Mr Blair, normally operates from behind the scenes. Yesterday, he went on the BBC and attacked Arthur Scargill and Ken Livingstone as the 'enemy' within the Labour Party for undermining the Labour leader's efforts to modernise the people's party.

Mr Livingstone responded in kind, saying: 'There must be something really tragic that happened to him in his childhood, but I am so used to his views I am prepared to forgive him his bitter little asides and I hope he will get better soon. The alternative view is that he is a Martian sent to the planet to exterminate all forms of life on Earth. But I take a charitable view.'

'Bobby' Mandelson has been the butt of jokes from Labour MPs on the conference fringe. Peter Hain told the Tribune rally: 'We'll no longer have long service awards. In the ritzy-glitzy Labour Party we'll get Mandelson medals.'

Some of Mr Mandelson's colleagues relished the moment, late at night on the promenade, when he was given a roasting by one journalist who felt he had been left out of a briefing on the Blair speech. 'That's the first time I have ever seen anyone stand up to Bobby like that,' commented one of his friends.

Some members of the Shadow Cabinet believe the first task for Mr Blair's new press secretary, Alastair Campbell, will be to tell Mr Mandelson to concentrate on his day job as MP for Hartlepool. But they will be disappointed. Mr Campbell and Mr Mandelson are genuinely great friends.

Jack Straw, the shadow environment spokesman, will be the leading frontbench speaker today in the law and order debate, raising speculation that he is being fitted up for the Home Office job in Mr Blair's reshuffle. Labour spin doctors explained he was taking the lead because home affairs had been arranged as part of the local government debate.

Mr Straw will remind the conference that it was in that hall, a year ago to the day, that the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, announced to the Tory party conference the pledge to introduce 27 measures to tackle crime. So far, he has managed to implement six.

The Labour leadership is collecting variations on Tony Blair's theme of 'tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime' for a slim volume. So far it has 'tough on prejudice and tough on the causes of prejudice' (Jeannie Evans, Wokingham); 'tough on conflict (in Ireland) and tough on the causes of conflict' (Ann Kane, Hackney South and Shoreditch); 'tough on Clause IV and tough on the causes of Clause IV' (Peter Hain), and 'tough on grime, and tough on the causes of grime' (Chris Smith). (That's enough 'tough ons' - Ed).

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