The Sketch: Welcome to the Last Days of Labour: Famine, War, Death and Hazel Blears

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The Independent Online

We are at the low point of the conference season; but our spirits will be lifting over the weekend. Never have we looked forward to Blackpool so much. Until then we are left with the Last Days of Labour. The Rapture.

Charlie Falconer addressed the problem of "democratic deserts". That is, people not voting. He leaned forward, glaring like an angry frog and denounced me: "Don't condemn generations of voters to increasing exclusion from the political process!" Your feeble pleadings on behalf of humanity are useless, Falconer! I will exclude them all - all of them - you hear! Why? Pessimism, cynicism and malice! Ha, ha, ha, ha! And so forth.

John Reid gave the final speech. The values speech. He always does this well; it's forceful and not unconvincing. The proprietorial way he rolls the word "values" around his mouth might annoy purists, but there are values - or at least propositions - that distinguish Labour sharply from the Tories. "The many not the few", for instance. And "together we achieve more than we can by ourselves". (Thus - comprehensive education, and a limit on private money in the NHS.) You think it's piffle? Let's not argue about that now. The Tories have failed catastrophically to work out equal and opposite piffle. Mrs Thatcher said, "Let our children grow tall - and those that have it in them, taller still." Admit it! Tories out there! You're mopping your eyes at the memory! Until the Conservatives can produce something succinct and sure and widely agreeable they won't even have started their long march back.

The Labour conference of 2005 will be the Year of the Oligarchs. The hierarchy is really getting the hang of it.

A colleague went to the press desk to get the details of the vote about private money in the NHS. It was a thumping defeat. "Umm, let's see," the press officer said, "we've got them somewhere...". On a shelf under the counter, handwritten on a piece of scrap paper. No matter what conference votes, it doesn't register, and is barely reported. Why do they vote at all? Habit? Is it some ancient, instinctual twitch?

When David Miliband talks about giving power back to ordinary people, he certainly isn't talking about delegates. Why then do they wonder at turn-out falling?