Simon Carr: The last day of Labour

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The Independent Online

The last day of Labour. The violin string sounded round the hall like a mournful battlefield track, the camera panning across the remnants of the army. Every main speech had ended with the word "We will fight! To win!" But the ragged singing of the Red Flag told a different story.

Placards lettered up by activists had been distributed to the audience and these were waved. There was a Village People scene on the platform with conference goers dressed up in their occupational uniforms. An indian head dress would have been very welcome. Gordon was caught in the middle of a clapalong not knowing what to do with his hands. It's amazing he's done as well as he has.

"The press must be free but it must also be fair!" Harriet had cried. If they really have thoughts like this in their heads, how can they deal with, say, the Taliban?

David Miliband has a new voice for us. I've heard it before. When my younger son came through puberty he spent a year trying to talk more deeply than he could. He wanted to sound more mature. Unwise, then for David to characterise Cameron and Co as "schoolboys".

The bookies have him leading the line up of fight to win losers.

Alan Johnson must have now persuaded us he's not up to it. He said he doesn't have the "self-confidence" for the top job. Top man, but surely that's the last word.

Ed Miliband can't be taken seriously until he's fixed his mouth. One side of it says one thing - the ballooning other half says something totally different.

David Miliband is popular with the public, intelligent, funny, supple. That's inside information for you because none of this is apparent from the podium. The homme serieux he's constructed as his stand-in is convincing enough - the noble head, the slow gaze around the room. But then he misses his place in the autocue and the gravelly assertions slip into to his natural manner: "Hang on, sorry about that, got ahead of myself." Then it's back to the grave voice and national destiny. He's making himself up. It's too obvious.

By contrast, Ed Balls is genuine. He is himself. He has sincerity. He has weight, he has presence. He is unbearable but that's the price of being yourself if you're Ed Balls.

He made the worst speech of the Conference - and I winced for him because I too have made a speech as bad as that myself. Half way through I realised I was naked from the waist down and I woke up shivering with a still-felt humiliation.

But like Harriet, he has no answer to politics' first question: Why Not Me? He really wants it. He sees how he can have it. They are the two least popular candidates. I see it as a run-off between them.