PM baffled by red pen, whiteboard, technology - and spelling 'Labour'

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Indy Politics

A masterclass in how not to connect to the voters was given by Tony Blair yesterday to a group of 100 Labour candidates.

Dressed in shirt-sleeves, the Prime Minister used an electronic whiteboard and a red pen to try to show how masochistic campaigning works.

The day before, he had been battered from breakfast to baked-beans time on daytime television. He wanted the candidates to go out and do the same around the regions. After an hour watching Mr Blair humiliate himself with the technology in the Labour Party headquarters in Victoria Street, the message was clear: do not try this with the voters if you are serious about winning your seats.

Mr Blair started by writing out in red ink the vacuous slogan Labour has chosen for its campaign: Forward Not Back. His handwriting was so slovenly that even Mr Blair blushed, and pressed a button immediately to erase it.

Explaining that he was not very good with modern technology, he pressed on with the exercise. He had trouble spelling Labour, which critics on the left of the party would not find too surprising. He trotted through more uplifting slogans for the faithful to remember as they plod the streets, canvassing for votes: Real Life Is Tough; Talk With Not At; Engage Explain Listen.

It began to resemble a pep talk for snake-oil salesmen. He told them to go out and enjoy the experience of talking to the ordinary people, but there was no mention of tuition fees, violent crime or Iraq - the questions that they will face on the doorstep, if Mr Blair's daytime television experience is anything to go by.

His red pen got into a tangle again when he tried to write: Election is Choice - Labour vs Tory. "This is far more difficult than it looks," he giggled. "Actually, it's almost embarrassingly simple."

Dropping his Hs, and saying "you know" a lot, the Prime Minister began to sound and look like Hugh Grant playing the youngish PM in Love Actually . Who would be playing the Martine McCutcheon role after the chat? We would never know. The media were ejected before the candidates got round to the questions. "Why did you do that to yourself Tony?" was one that must have been forming in most people's minds.

As the media trooped out, Mr Blair suggested that the newspapers would hire graphologists to analyse his handwriting as they had after a recent summit. A page of squiggles from a notepad was thought to be doodles byMr Blair. "Experts" said it showed a mind clouded by indecision and lacking the basic qualities of leadership. It turned out to be by Bill Gates, head of Microsoft.

It would not require an expert to draw conclusions from Mr Blair's yesterday. He needs to concentrate more on Educashun, Educashun, Educashun.