Bleep, bleep: who's not there?

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On New Year's Day, 2005, the Labour Party will enter a brave new era: without pagers. The party's whips have told their MPs to dispose of those discreet little vibrating boxes by 31 December since most telephone companies are withdrawing their paging services. In a world where everyone has a mobile phone, pagers are defunct technology. Like Betamax tapes and Rabbit phones, they are to be unceremoniously cast on to the scrap heap.

On New Year's Day, 2005, the Labour Party will enter a brave new era: without pagers. The party's whips have told their MPs to dispose of those discreet little vibrating boxes by 31 December since most telephone companies are withdrawing their paging services. In a world where everyone has a mobile phone, pagers are defunct technology. Like Betamax tapes and Rabbit phones, they are to be unceremoniously cast on to the scrap heap.

Ironically, the arch-modernisers of New Labour are about to witness what was once one of their most powerful tools being "modernised" out of existence. Some in the party are already misting up at the thought of fond pager-related memories.

But could there be a silver lining? Who knows: perhaps Labour MPs, when they have grown used to not being commanded, cajoled and disciplined electronically, might even act spontaneously. And if they start to pine for the old days, they can just look across to the Tory benches. The Conservative Party's modernisation is advancing so slowly that they will probably be using pagers for a good while yet.

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