All loved up at an old-fashioned rave in Blackpool

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The Independent Online
If Jack Straw is serious about his plans for random drug testing, he could have done a lot worse than give the idea a quick try in Blackpool last week. The Labour Party conference was likened to all sorts of things this year - a US convention, a pyramid sales conference, a mildly overheated Girl Guides' rally - but on big Tone's day, Super Tuesday, the hall resembled nothing more than a good old Eighties rave.

We had the lights - great swirly, pacemaker-troubling affairs; we had the music - "Things Can Only Get Better", of course, from old ravers' favourites D:Ream; we had the massed raising of hands in the air (once thought to be a style of voting, now more an effect of choreography). And up there at the front, we had the star himself, the one and only DJ Tony Blair.

As delegates emerged blinking into the Newsnight camera lights, all the tell-tale twitches were there. Flushed, euphoric, slightly agitated, not quite getting the focus right, the adrenalin came tumbling out. "Brilliant!" "Fantastic!" "We have a mission!" Sorted, in fact, one might say. Like the raver found dancing to the car alarm in his garden at dawn, one gentleman couldn't seem to control the beat in his head. "New Labour, New Britain" - you could almost see the bass line.

They had underlings dishing out conference notes as the delegates filed past, like the boys paid to thrust fliers into clammy hands outside clubs as the sun comes up. And Newsnight even managed to find the sulky one who'd been sold the dud E, and wasn't quite so thrilled with everything.

"People see that things like party conferences are pretty meaningless and bland," she scowled.

Everybody else grinned, glassy-eyed, and kept grinning as they danced on by.

AFTER, in the chill-out room, an interviewer struggled to get sense out of a loved-up John Prescott. It was an unenviable task.

"You saw the enthusiasm here today!" he boomed. We are all just the same, you see - seamen, lawyers, the whole damned lot. Just one big happy family. Politics isn't about arguing - not when everyone shares the same interests. What was all that fuss about when I said I was middle class? Meaningless nonsense! Everybody's in this together - "And we want to represent them all!"

It was just the sort of stuff that made a good old rave such a laugh. With classics like Peace and Harmony coursing through the veins, everyone got along splendidly. Differences abandoned at the door, the girl next to you just a smile away from being your brand new best friend, you'd sing along to "Promised Land" and really believe anything was possible! And on a good night, the feeling could last, ooh, maybe a whole 24 hours.

What works for one kind of party isn't always such a good idea for another. John Prescott's wide-eyed love for fellow man might be quite useful if you'd invited him along to a nightclub, but isn't what you need in your elected representative. If there were no such thing as competing interests, and we were all just the same, plainly we wouldn't need any political representation at all. Ask an unemployed single parent in Hull to tell you what she feels she has in common with Cedric Brown, and you might start to wonder whether John Prescott understands what he is paid to do.

Things can only get better? D:Ream on.

WHEN Simon Sunderland, a remarkably enthusiastic graffiti artist/ vandal, got five years this March for giving Barnsley the comprehensive benefit of his hobby, everyone was fairly startled. Not everyone, however, thought it was such a bad thing. These bloody kids just can't go around ruining other people's property, with their weirdy "art" and sinister code signs, some said. And they had a point.

We aren't entirely consistent on the matter, though. These same people are quite likely to be the sort who give graffiti anthologies for Christmas presents - witty paperbacks full of gems like "Don't vote - it only encourages them," and "Jesus Saves - but God scores on the rebound". We don't much care for delinquent self-expression, but a good pun is a different matter. The significance of this distinction I learnt to my cost when, in a shamefully stupid moment, I had a go myself.

My brother and I had been working in a pub in a charming little village. John, the landlord, had become a great friend, and we came, quite unreasonably, to regard the bar as some kind of extension of our home. When the brewery decided things had got out of hand and ousted John for a more conventional incumbent, we were outraged.

Something - though why precisely this, I cannot think - had to be done! In high spirits, in the dead of night, we crept up the valley with a can of Woolworths paint, and proceeded to spray quite the most foul-mouthed thing we could think of across the front of the pretty, whitewashed pub. What a hoot! We could hardly run home for laughing. Amazingly, we imagined no one would guess who had done it. It was, in fact, a matter of hours before our father was peering across the kitchen table at us. He was very quiet, and it was starting to look like trouble.

"Why?" he finally demanded, leaden with disappointment, "couldn't you have written something witty?"

Simon Sunderland was released this week, having apparently "learned his lesson". One hopes, for his sake, that this means he has learnt that you can write what you like as long as it's funny.

Esperanto, surely the most commendable attempt yet to promote European integration, has its own special week, beginning tomorrow. The Esperanto Association has prepared some phrases it feels will be useful for the week. These include Rektaj bananoj (Straight bananas), Estas kvazau Greka al mi! (It's all Greek to me!), Volapukajo (double Dutch), and Ne! (No!).

The European Union is doomed.

Lucy Ellmann is on holiday.

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