The Sketch: The old brute Prescott rounds things up with a bellowing speech

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Labour sang "Jerusalem" twice at the end of their conference. They really wanted to rub it in about their not ceasing from endless strife till they had built Jerusalem on (sic) England's green and pleasant land. The lyrics didn't explain how they were going to get planning permission.

Labour sang "Jerusalem" twice at the end of their conference. They really wanted to rub it in about their not ceasing from endless strife till they had built Jerusalem on (sic) England's green and pleasant land. The lyrics didn't explain how they were going to get planning permission.

Perhaps they won't need it, if John Prescott is in charge of the building programme. His million extra homes look quite modest compared with Jersualem between Swindon and Slough, with its Arab quarter, its illegal settlements out as far as Oxford, suicide bombers barging ahead of us in Waitrose - Labour really has it in for southerners. When Mr Prescott talks about "our people" there's quite a lot of Britons he's leaving out.

Isn't he retiring or something? He will certainly be missed by those who'll miss him. His round-up speech is usually an entertaining affair, but I regret to say, the jokes weren't up to his usual standard so the volume had to be turned up to compensate. Bellowing is how he expresses pain, I think. He's not been happy for a while; in the September recall, he slumped on the front bench mouth turned down like sad clown (you couldn't help laugh). The deal he brokered between TB and GB had all gone wrong, he's never really recovered.

So let's be nice about the old brute. His broad shoulders. His great chest. His marvellous head of hair. And his sentimental qualities of warmth and cunning and tribal loyalty. His achievements, too. He delivered Old Labour to New Labour; trussed them up in his warmth and cunning and tribal disloyalty and delivered them to Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair. The management has been superb.

The morning debate on the Iraq war was deftly managed, too. The second half of the conference has become a long anti-climax after the two big speeches on Monday and Tuesday. The hall was half empty (all right, if you insist, half full) and the balanced call of speakers for and against was interrupted by a Kurdish speaker. She displayed her psychological wounds in a way that made the more reticent among us want to look away. She was as strange and compelling and foreign as central Asian music. Our liberal certainties about universal human values like democracy looked pretty shaky, I thought, listening to her wild and grieving plea (she wanted troops to stay, for the record).

The Iraq motion supporting the Government was very hard to vote against and very few tried. There is Labour closure on the issue, of the most depressing sort. Many speakers declared they had been against the war, but Claire Willcox spoke for 86 per cent of them when she said, "It no longer matters whether were for or against it." It is now, in a New Labour mantra, time for the future not the unreliable past. So let us be careful to remember Paul Flynn's great dictum: "Under New Labour only the future is certain; the past keeps changing."

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

Comments