The Labour Party in Blackpool: Professor Peabody gets to rattle the play-pen: On the Front: Blackpool

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The Independent Online
PAST the clarinettist with the singing dog, there's the sad facade of the Winter Gardens with its two big red and yellow signs. To the right, 'Conference '92 Labour'. To the left, 'Professor Peabody's Playplace'. Yesterday I went left.

Beyond the jolly policemen there was a large room full of excited, happy children, all to see Professor Peabody. It was hard to spot the Professor at first, but at one side of the room there was a big play-pen of many levels all painted grey.

The people on it looked like they were sitting on grey waves in a grey sea under a grey sky, and eventually a big, round, friendly man went to speak at one side and it was as though he was in the tower of his grey submarine. It was Professor Peabody himself]

We were so excited, we clapped and clapped and then he told us jokes. They weren't terribly good but we all wanted to laugh so we did and the Professor's friend, Mrs Beckett, did her trick with her chin and her Adam's apple to show how much fun she was having.

He said clever things with 'p's, like 'the paralysed Prime Minister plodding'. He told us we were promised a New Statesman and we got a Spectator instead. He told an old joke about the pot calling the kettle grey. He said Mr Major and Mr Lamont were like Laurel and Hardy, but I think Laurel and Hardy are better.

Then he changed and told us a really frightening story about the incompetent Tories who had beaten Professor Peabody and his friends last April, but now were in such a mess they didn't know what to do.

I put up my hand to say shouldn't we go and help them then, but he didn't notice and instead he said he and his friends would check the Tories' every move from now on. Which seemed a clever plan.

Then there was a very long serious bit about all the other things Professor Peabody was going to do if he got the chance and we all went quiet and even though it made a lot of sense some people fidgeted.

In this serious bit the Professor sometimes looked like one of those statues on Easter Island, and sometimes, when he said things he thought people might not like, like how much he liked Europe, his voice got high and he opened his eyes very wide trying to look sincere.

But really it was so he could spot if any of the children were misbehaving. I'm not a sneak, but at the other end of the platform I saw Tony not even watching the Professor.

When the Professor finished he said the party would be fighting the Tories for years relentlessly, which sounded quite fun but hard work. We could all go away and start preparing for power. Then everyone (except Dennis) stood and clapped for quite a long time, but maybe because they had to.

Some of the Professor's friends said that it was a new sort of speech, for the country as well as the party, and it wasn't supposed to be like the the old Professor's ones.

Other people said it was quite boring and not a bit like the playtime in London last week. And I thought it wasn't nearly as good as it was supposed to be and there weren't any presents at all.

STILL, there is fun to be had at Blackpool. Last night, delegates were torn between attending the Labour Women's Action Committee picket of the Labour Life Group's Protect the Unborn Child meeting (creche available) at C J's Cafe; and in the Clifton Hotel, Lord Williams QC, on the theme 'Let's Kill All the Lawyers', including, presumably, John Smith.