Ministers pick up Tone's new tone that is set to last 500 years

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The Independent Online

Now that it looks like New Labour's going to be in power for the next 500 years, I better start sucking up to them, so they'll like me and tell me all their secrets, which I'll then be able to pass on to you (it's very important you don't let them know this is the plan).

Now that it looks like New Labour's going to be in power for the next 500 years, I better start sucking up to them, so they'll like me and tell me all their secrets, which I'll then be able to pass on to you (it's very important you don't let them know this is the plan).

Right. The Speaker's making a dramatic effort to act like a Speaker, that's certainly true.

Well done Mike. People say he's no more of a Speaker than my backside. But I don't agree, and I know more about that than more or less anyone.

For instance: yesterday, he rebuked his own troops no less than four times, made Labour's Desmond Turner sit down to stop him burbling, and let the Tory Stephen O'Brien ask a perfectly good question all the way to the end.

He's also displaying rugged ambitions for audibility; when he opens up the great waste disposal of his throat he grinds out MPs' names so loudly that nearly everyone can hear them. I won't hear a word of criticism against the man. Unless I turn my hearing aid up. Which I refuse to do.

Hilary Armstrong's voice! The music of it! When she improvises on her social exclusion themes - it's like listening to the Enigma Variations played on a duck decoy!

I could listen to it all day; indeed, we did listen to it all day; at least it felt like all day. "We are therefore asking local authorities to establish strategic partnerships with their partners and including those from the community sector so that everyone, including the people who are most affected, have a part to play in making sure that we really do ensure that everyone wherever they live gets the same opportunity to prosper ..."

Keen students of Ms Armstrong - and I am among her most devoted - will notice but a single flaw: the use of the word sector. This is a throwback word for which modernisers use "community". The gay community. The international community. When talking about empowering local groups she should have referred to them as the community community.

I'm sure she won't mind my correcting her on this. And what a lovely brooch she was was wearing.

John Prescott delighted us, as he invariably does. What a figure of a man he is. He's built like a politician - that is, like one of those bottom-heavy toys that you can't knock over.

"We will build higher quality housing and make better use of land by building at more sustainable densities," he assured us.

Readers may sense a teasing ambiguity inherent in that phrase "sustainable density" - that is, does it mean anything or not?

There are those who doubt Mr Prescott himself is built at a sustainable density, but I'm not one of them. He's more than sustainably dense. With clever recycling he may prove to be so eternally dense that he'll still be there in the next Tory government in 2500.

He's cunning, too. He's picked up the new tone from the new Tone that's leading the Government. This is another of the great legacies of the Tory years - along with spending limits, privatisation, higher indirect taxes, selling out sovereignty to Europe, and doing a war, the most important thing Mrs T has taught Tony Blair is the lowering of the voice.

Today, we'll see whether William Hague has been able to develop a new rhetorical posture to match Tony's tone.

If he hasn't - well, let the 500-year history begin.

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