The ground-breaking truth about Bold Labour

So that's the real vision – we may not be much, but you don't want to let the other lot back in
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For those who missed it, here are some excerpts from that speech described as "ground-breaking", "courageous" and "visionary".

For those who missed it, here are some excerpts from that speech described as "ground-breaking", "courageous" and "visionary".

There was "Now, at the start of the 21st century, is a time for reaching out." Which certainly makes you think. And was highly courageous, as there was always a chance someone would call out: "Point of order, Mr. Chairman; we're actually in the middle of the 14th century." There was "We are at a crossroads" and "Justice for all has never been more relevant", both of which are as ground-breaking as anything since the Bay City Rollers' "We sang Sshang-a-lang, do wop dooby boo bang".

There was "We need a partnership of rights and responsibilities", challenging the Old Labour notion that we shouldn't be responsible and should throw lighted fireworks at each other in petrol stations. And on crime: "The problem isn't just crime. It is disrespect. It is anti-social behaviour." He might as well have said "Crime? Oo isn't it dreadful? I don't know, the youngsters today. Oh well, I'll go and put the kettle on."

On international affairs he took on all the taboos by saying he wanted "an Israeli state free from terror". That saw off those delegates who were considering a composite motion backing the extension of terror into all areas of public life and admitting suicide bombing as an Olympic sport. Almost all of it was the same classic politician drivel, he could have saved money on scriptwriters and had the thing written by an incoherent tramp. "Conference, Mr. Chairman, who you looking at? Baaa berber what, bizhba BOLD you've got to be BOLD, that's why she LEFT ME the bloody cow left me, cos it's time for reaching out, give me back my blanket."

As far as it said anything, it seemed to be an attempt to reassure his audience that he listens to their concerns. But the minute anyone says "I recognise your concerns" you know that means they're going to do exactly what they were going to do anyway. For example, he said UN resolutions should be adhered to by Israel, as if this makes him even-handed between Israel and Iraq. But with one, it's "should be adhered to", with the other it's "should be adhered to, otherwise we'll incinerate the place and in fact we'll do it even if they do adhere to them." Call me pedantic, but I can spot a subtle difference in the detail.

For a speech to be genuinely visionary it has to be connected to action. A simple phrase such as "I have a dream" can be visionary if spoken by a preacher in front of 250,000 people defying segregation. But New Labour doesn't seem to get this. You imagine Alistair Darling thinking: "It's not fair. I said 'I have a dream – of involving private sector investment in our vital long-term infrastructure development.' But no one says I'm a great speaker. That bloke from Alabama must have had a better press officer."

And the main policies behind the speech seem to be to encourage big business to invest in new markets to make a profit and support America bombing somewhere. Maybe someone believes this is genuinely bold and thinks: "Big business – profit. I wonder why no one ever thought of putting these two things together before." But most of the journalists who have described the speech as ground-breaking etc have simply been blinded by it all. If they were film critics, they'd have seen The Mummy Returns and written "Wow. It had a mummy – that moved. And it was in colour."

Throughout the visionary speech was one section around which all else was centred, that the alternative to New Labour "results in only one thing – the return of a right-wing Tory government". So that's the real vision. We might not be much, but we're all there is. You might still hold ideals such as running services without anyone making a profit, or not bombing people on increasingly spurious grounds, but if you stand up for them, you'll let the other lot back. That's why the vision has to be sold with such meaningless rhetoric. Just as a salesman selling a ropey car has to convince a buyer that for the money he's offering, he can't do better.

Which may be why none of the commentators who claim Blair's speech asserted his dominance over British politics has acknowledged that fewer people feel any allegiance towards any mainstream politicians than at any time for more than a century. If his hold is so strong, why was the turnout at the election the lowest since everyone had the vote? And why have there just been the two biggest demonstrations ever, both outside official politics, one from the left and one from the right?

The other danger for Blair comes from the revelations about Major, which leave Blair only one away from being the most boring Prime Minister ever. And Edwina's promising further shocks, so if one of them is that in the 1950s Harold Macmillan acted as a pimp, leaving cards in phone boxes saying "Ring Westminster 3597 and you'll never have had it so good", the title's his.

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