The Sketch: Tanned and with a twang, but it's still the same old routine from Tony

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The Independent Online

Tony, the tan and his transatlantic twang – the three of them must have been a shock for Sedgefield. And why was he joking about the Bush pub? "It was a place for – how can I put this? – the strong-minded." That was a daring piece of humour. Maybe that's where they decided to "do" Iran as well as Iraq.

Never mind that now. He set about charming his audience. It's got a little formal now, the gestures have a Noh-like quality to them and you don't feel entirely confident the face won't break.

But then he put the proposition, the argument, to them. If the heirs to Blair were paying attention, they will have learnt something. Mind you, had they been capable they would have learnt it already.

The argument for experience (that is, for Gordon) was – his heart wasn't entirely in that one. The dissection of the Conservatives – ah yes, that was his forte. They were his piano and he played them up and down.

He contrasted the Tories with what he and the team had done to create New Labour: the new philosophy, the new tooling, the new machinery, the new products, the new results. And as we know, the Conservatives haven't gone through this rigorous process.

We believed him when he said: "Where you want certainty you get confusion."

And the conclusion: "Are they saying these things because they believe them, or just because they want to get elected?"

That got a round of applause from the activists as they felt the shaft sink home.

Blair even came up with a rework of "economic efficiency and social justice". He called it Ambition + Compassion. It's a better Tory line than anything they've come up with so far.

The only Conservative to get a name check was our old friend Oliver Letwin, the head of policy development. He was quoted as telling The Wall Street Journal ("a paper I have to confess I read now" he said to laughter) that the Tories are going to transform hospitals by getting them to compete for patients.

That's what's still wrong with them, the noodles. "Competing for patients" empowers the axe-faced business managers in the hospital. Saying, "Giving patients the best possible service so they don't go somewhere else" – that makes the doctors and nurses the most important people in the joint. It isn't just sloganising.

Now that the heirs to Blair are having to fight for their inheritance they must learn more quickly!