The Sketch: Energy saving? We all reached for the switch

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The Independent Online

Bob Geldof has a lovely Irish way. His flowing answers, his copulatory catchphrase, his indescribable hair, they were all very welcome on Celebrity Day of the Labour conference. It's so hard to keep the momentum going following the leader's speech.

When Geldof speaks, you do listen. We didn't learn much, but we did listen. He said there are 100 doctors in Liberia, that the Congo is "without structure", and that one cause of poverty in Africa is that 70 per cent of their intellectuals live abroad. Perhaps we should send some of ours. I'm sure we could spare David Aaronovitch. He'd feed a family of six for months. I'm not sure these reflections are very worthy but no less unworthy than the cant our public figures give on Africa. "An African life is worth as much as a Western one", Tony Blair said yesterday. We all know, deep in our secret heart, that it simply isn't true. As they die in their millions they cause infinitely less anguish than the dozens who died in the London bombings. Oh, and one reason Africa lacks doctors is that we steal them.

Nonetheless, Geldof's ability to hold our attention is a talent that our latest professional politicians will have to master. David Miliband and Douglas Alexander gave two of the most boring speeches I've ever heard. And considering their theme was the coming apocalypse, the end of civilisation and the destruction of life on earth, that was a feat.

Reading departmental briefs does not engage an audience. Speeches like that are a crime against democracy and discourage others from joining in. Or even listening in.

Miliband said that if we all changed three light bulbs to the low energy sort, it would be like taking two or three million cars off the road. That is only interesting insofar as he makes it happen. Of course they could easily use the tax system to encourage the right bulbs. If it really is that important? Or is it the same sort of thing as African lives being as important as ours?

Bill Clinton's speech was short on matter but well worth studying. His sleepy way has us leaning forward to hear him, not leaning back to avoid him. He's an object lesson for our indigenous Daleks. Will they ever learn?

sketch@simoncarr.co.uk

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