Conference diary

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Indy Politics

LAST STAND

Cherie Blair handed out the award for the best stand to the League Against Cruel Sports yesterday. Ben Kind, political officer for the league, said her dad, Tony Booth, had been round for a few freebies, and asked innocently: "Perhaps that's why we won?" Cherie replied: "I'm easy to bribe."

UNLUCKIEST MAN

Peter Hain, who had to give a speech about the Northern Ireland peace process at 9.15am on the hangover-ridden last day of conference. Attendance in the hall was thin.

ON MESSAGE

Ed Balls, the Chancellor's right-hand man, was seenswapping the lanyard on his conference pass between engagements, dropping the left-wing GMB cord (bright red) for the on-message official Sky News braid.

LONELIEST MEN

The plotters whose letter calling on Tony Blair to quit sparked his announcement that this would be his last conference as leader. Sion Simon, one of the ringleaders, was seen in the Lowry Hotel forlorn and alone. Across town his partner in crime Chris Bryant wandered the Amicus party looking for someone to talk to.

PASS HELL (PART 97)

The chaos in the conference pass office became infamous. Tales emerged of delays of up to five days, corporate donors who received their day passes at 6pm and Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, who had to plead that he was hosting a dinner with Tessa Jowell to get in.

BILL'S GOTTA HAVE IT

The old charmer's still got it. Doorstepped by the BBC's Jo Coburn, Bill Clinton leant forward and murmured: "I do like your necklace, where did you get it?" She flustered: "It's an antique heirloom, it was my grandmother's." Little did the impressed Clinton know she picked it up for a tenner in the high street.

THE RED FLAG STILL FLIES... SOMEWHERE

The Old Labour Amicus delegation were in nostalgic mood, belting out the socialist anthem the "Internationale" at their reception, no doubt led by their leader "Red" Derek Simpson.

SUBLIMINAL MESSAGE?

John Reid, who increasingly seems to be preparing for a tilt at the top job, used the words "leadership" and "leader" six times in a speech which wandered far from his Home Office brief.

HOME TRUTHS

What is the collective noun for home secretaries? A crackdown, surely. Jack Straw, Charles Clarke, John Reid and David Blunkett found themselves in a circle around Sun editor Rebekah Wade at one bash. They all held hands and said: "We are all the people who didn't introduce Sarah's law."

CHEER OF THE WEEK

Delegates erupted at the slow-motion clip of that punch during a tribute video after John Prescott's end-of-conference speech.

GOOD WEEK 1

The regenerated City of Manchester, which has been lauded as a brilliant venue for Labour's conference. Sources are already saying they'll be back.

GOOD WEEK 2

Tony Blair, whose valedictory speech was lauded as his best ever (better even than Bill Clinton) and (for now) helped silence those manoeuvring against him.

BAD WEEK

Anyone who wants to succeed the Prime Minister, with none of the contenders for the premiership or Labour's deputy leader slot coming close to his performance.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Well, That's a lie" the four words blurted out by Cherie Blair which blew away Gordon Brown's speech. She denied the story, but her husband's gag seemed to say it was all true.

PARTY OF THE WEEK

The Independent's, naturally, where the high-powered throng could watch Gordon Brown and Charles Clarke circling each other without ever quite catching each other's eye.

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