The leaden joys of a Prime Minister's speech

If he ever gets caught having an affair, he'll say, 'But Cherie, on the evidence at the time, I'd no option'
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The Independent Online

Which bit, exactly, was worth that standing ovation? What makes someone stand and cheer phrases such as, "Because the world changes, we have to change." Were Blair's audience impressed because they felt most politicians would have said, "The world is changing so we have to stand still. Computers? Bollocks to them. And I haven't worked out how to set the video yet so I'm buggered if I'm getting a DVD."

And there was the crescendo of, "This is our challenge. To stride forward where we have previously stumbled." I'm not an expert on poetry but as imagery goes that's hardly bloody Wordsworth. Would he have been quite so famous if he'd written, "I wandered carefully not to trip o'er obstacles 'ere I did previously"?

There was barely one section that made any sense. For example, "I don't want the middle class fighting to get out of the state system, I want them fighting to get into it ... That's what the founders of socialism dreamt of." I see. So although Marx and Engels' most famous quote was, "Workers of the World Unite," the one they wanted to be known for was, "One day we can build a new world. It will be a world in which we come under the catchment area of St Josephs, which did very well in the league tables and won't be much further for the nanny to go in the mornings."

Or there was his justification for going to war. When he got the intelligence, he said, he couldn't respond by saying, "I've a hunch it's wrong." A hunch! In the case of whether Saddam could launch weapons of mass destruction at 45-minutes' notice, the Government admits it knew it wasn't true. They knew because they made it up themselves. He might as well have written on a sheet of paper, "Saddam Hussein is plotting to kill the Queen by poisoning Black Rod's stick". And then said, "having written this down, I couldn't call off the war because of a hunch it wasn't true".

Similarly, he promised, "the biggest policy consultation ever to have taken place in this country." Well, he'll have to go some way to beat the consultation forced on him over the war. More people than ever in British history spoke out, demonstrated, and made clear their opposition and he ignored the lot of them. And he's already stated he hasn't got a reverse gear, so what's the point of this consultation? He should have been honest and said, "Earlier this year I ignored several million people. But New Labour is nothing if it's not bold. So let's see, in the coming months, if we can beat that by ignoring thirty million people."

The elusive weapons were hardly mentioned. Instead, his defence of the war involved Iraqis who thanked him personally, while he somehow omitted to relate what the rest of the Arab world has said to him. I suppose because of the cultural differences their gratitude comes out in ways we wouldn't recognise, such as denouncing him from every mosque on the planet and costing his party one of the safest seats in the country.

Then he wished us to concentrate on unqualified succeses, such as, "We have cut asylum applications by a half. But we must go further." That bit must have been adapted from a Mr Man book. The original probably went, "Mr Grumpy lived in Grumpy Cottage. Every day he heard people saying, "Thank goodness I've escaped from the people who burned down my village". "Baah," said Mr Grumpy, "they upset my friend Mr Wapping with their whining about murdered relatives and how they crossed the Channel in a casserole dish." And Mr Grumpy promised to teach these people a lesson by making them live in camps. Then Mr Grumpy grumped, "Half? Baah, I suppose it's a start."

Then, and you have to admire this, he condemned the "gravy train of legal aid." As opposed to most people in the legal profession, who never get near a gravy train and could never imagine being rich enough to, let's say, buy a couple of extra flats for half a million quid and have enough left over to employ their own personal weirdo.

He certainly delivers this nonsense with panache. If Tony ever gets caught having an affair, he'll talk his way straight out of trouble. "But Cherie," he'll say, "on the evidence I had at the time I had no other option. And yes, I am listening, indeed I believe we must begin a new discussion. For we are only strong when we are together. For we must, must, go on."

And that's more or less where all those delegates who gave him a standing ovation are at. They so desperately want to believe that all they've given up has been to some good. They stand and cheer because if they don't it means all the lies, the broken promises, the sacrifices, the shattered dreams, it's all been for nothing. But stand for seven minutes and you can convince yourself that selling the country's economy to big business and its destiny to George Bush is a worthwhile compromise because, in return, we get the promise of striding forward where we previously stumbled.

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