The Sketch: Guard dogs barked unstoppably, much like Our Tony

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The Independent Online

The mother of a prominent right-wing columnist from the Daily Mail was threatening to dance naked on Brighton beach. In the event, someone only dumped two dead cows and three dead horses on the streets with stakes through their hearts. But even that was quite shocking. They need advice, these people. They'll alienate moderate opinion

The mother of a prominent right-wing columnist from the Daily Mail was threatening to dance naked on Brighton beach. In the event, someone only dumped two dead cows and three dead horses on the streets with stakes through their hearts. But even that was quite shocking. They need advice, these people. They'll alienate moderate opinion

To the highlight of the day. The leader's speech. I'm always doing that. I'll start again. The Leader's Speech. As we know, the essence of rhetoric is surprise. Tony Blair invariably surprises us with his great, set-piece conference speech and this year's was no exception. It was astonishingly dull. He included his 10-point national modernisation plan and didn't spare us on the details. So I don't see why you should get away with it just because you weren't there. For a start, the opportunity society is the thing. Are you with me so far? Empowering the drivers of the opportunity society are four groups of people: the "parent" and the "patient", the "law-abiding citizen" and the "job-seeker". They will be "widening the circle of opportunity" by voting for low mortgage rates, rising living standards and greater regional employment with Modern Apprentices booking their time and date for operations and free literacy classes. We won't be ignoring people any more, especially dinner ladies, hospital porters and office cleaners. They will be getting the respect they deserve, and targets for respect will, presumably, be announced in due course. In no particular order, trial without jury will be extended, ID cards will be introduced and there will be an interactive whiteboard in every school.

The digital divide will also be eliminated and "the NHS will be safe in the patients' hands". (That may or may not have been a misprint.) "Better lies for working people," Mr Blair promised. It was a long speech and fatigue may have been setting in. Maybe he was trying to promise better lives for working people. Maybe it will come to the same.

The most exciting parts came when demonstrators interrupted from the balcony, twice. The security - both professional and amateur - pounced on them and, with some difficulty, bundled them out. Then they returned to their positions standing at key points of the hall with their hands behind their backs, looking out over us, scanning us coldly and blocking our view if they could. Sometimes they murmured into their personal communications systems. Sometimes they told us to sit down. Sometimes they clapped, in a menacing sort of way. Mr Blair told us that the Tories didn't rule any more, "the rulers are the people". No, the rulers are these people.

Mr Blair's moral totalitarianism has got even more total. Hitherto, he claimed his values were not personal, or party political or Western, but universal. Now, logically, I suppose, he wants to make changes "irreversible". And the police dogs outside the hall, straining at their leashes, barked continuously and unstoppably all afternoon.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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