Conference Diary: Marr breaks the drugs taboo

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Indy Politics

We all know that from time to time, the stress of high office drives a person to the edge of madness, but until yesterday nobody had ever asked a serving Prime Minister to his face whether he is so close to cracking up that he needs medication. The taboo was broken by Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning programme, the Andrew Marr Show, when he twice asked Gordon Brown whether he is taking prescription drugs. This follows voluminous speculation in the blogosphere that the Prime Minister's moodiness might be a side effect of anti-depressants.

The reactions to the question and non-answer are much as you might predict. The right wing blogs are lauding Marr for daring to ask, Downing Street is furious, and some senior people in the BBC are privately shaking their heads and saying that Marr went too far. Even more ominously, a small number of prominent people in the Labour conference hall in Brighton are quietly pleased with Marr, so desperate are they to shed Gordon Brown by whatever means.

*A decision has finally been made about which cabinet minister will appear on the BBC's Question Time programme on the same panel as the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, and when. It will be the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, on 22 October.

*Best wishes to Angela Eagle, the first government minister to go through a civil partnership ceremony. That news, you may recall, was unexpectedly announced by Harriet Harman at last year's TUC conference. Eagle and her partner, Maria Exall, were in a Brighton restaurant last night, quietly celebrating their anniversary.

*A conference steward of many years' experience was watching candidates who hope to become Labour MPs in next year's election being photographed with Cabinet ministers. He claimed that the one they most wanted to be seen with was the Health Secretary, Andy Burnham. This tells you either that health is going to feature on a lot of locally produced Labour election leaflets next year; or that Burnham is the Cabinet minister to watch; or that he is just better looking than the rest.

*It was certainly Andy Burnham's day. He scored the only goal in a lacklustre performance by the Labour football team, also starring Ed Balls, above, which was beaten 5-1 by the press XI. The losers are crying foul, having found out that the press team's star player was a BBC technician. But considering that last year Labour fielded Bryan Robson, not best known as a Labour politician, who are they to complain?