Now on to the shadow boxing

Keith Waterhouse

Last updated at 00:00 02 October 2003

Not in the least put out, he waited for the applause to die down and then rose himself. 'I'm so glad you gave my friend such a big hand, because he was feeling particularly nervous tonight.

'I just met him in the washroom and he was in a terrible state.

He said, "Oh, my Gahd, I don't know what to do. I left my speech at home and you know how terrible I am without notes." I said: "You don't have a problem. I owe you a favour - here, take my speech." ' And with that the crafty Stevenson sat down. I have been wondering if the equally crafty Tony Blair knows that story and whether he put it to good use the other day.

Gordon Brown's emotional speech at Bournemouth on Monday could well have been written by Tony Blair. Tony's own lowkey contribution, crammed with facts and figures like currants in a suet pudding, could have been drafted by Gordon Brown.

But there the resemblance to Tweedledum and Tweedledee stops short. In this battle of the Granita gladiators, Brown was brilliant but Tone walked away with the championship cup.

He had an easy innings. The rabble were banished to troublemakers' suites, known as overspill rooms. Party heavies kept the applause going. 'I've not got a reverse gear' was the soundbite of the day - a straight pinch, if a mendacious one, from 'This lady's not for turning.' The Iraq and foundation hospital hurdles were smoothly cleared, leaving it to others to handle yesterday's tricky water jumps (I wonder, will anyone have made anything of his downgrading of Saddam's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to 'Suppose they got hold of a biological weapon. . .').

But euphoria, expressed in the third-term promise of six and a half years so far and not out, saw off the opposition - and that includes Gordon Brown. To a sitting tenant of the Government front benches, there is no sweeter phrase than 'four more years'.

WE ALMOST failed to register ( not surprisingly, for this brief section was as crammed with negatives as a kipper with bones) that Tony pledged his support for Blunkett's ID cards, or that he said it would be madness to give up the option of joining the single currency.

He became nauseatingly lachrymose over letters from the parents of soldiers killed in Iraq - but there, with Tony Blair, what you expect is what you get.

HE WITTIEST President the United States never had, Adlai Stevenson, once found himself sharing a platform with a rival speaker even wittier than himself - no mean feat.

He waffled, to the disgruntlement of the old- style trade union element present, about ' rewarding public service staff for the superb job they do'.

(Let's hear it for the smoking cessation strategy co-ordinator.) And what was the other thing he had to say? Oh, yes, the minimum wage going up to Pounds 4.50.

The standing ovation was whipped up to seven and a half minutes. He got away with it.

He saw Gordon off. What more do they want? Not enough, I fear, but that's politics, 2003- style.

Now it's nearly time for IDS's exhibition bout of shadow boxing.

Take that

A TAKE, as in Take One, is a single photographed sequence for film or television. Or was, anyway.

In the way that language moves on, or anyway moves, a take now appears to be a poncy arts programme expression, as in 'The National's take on Jerry Springer, the Opera' which at one time would have been 'The National production of Jerry Springer, the Opera.' This irritating little word has further territorial ambitions. It has gone, predictably enough, into the polenta-slurping diet of Improved New Labour, where at Bournemouth this week we had Tony Blair saying: 'Some of the people may have a different take on me. But I have the same take on them . . .' Any idea what he meant?

Nor I. Take Two.

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