Labour Conference 2006… not all soap

Join the Labour PartyAlongside Norm’s call for civility, it was remarked at Urbis’ pre-Labour Conference political blogging event that nobody seems to blog about Blair-Brown rivalry, although it seems to be the only topic proper political correspondents can find to talk about. Let’s face it, a Brown government wouldn’t be that different from one headed up by John Reid, Charles Clark or Alan Johnson.

Given that leadership was, thankfully, never a formal topic for debate, it makes you wonder if any correspondent spent any time in the debating hall. You certainly wouldn’t get much clue as to what was going on from TV; news that might actually change lives is buried deep in the broadsheets.

Bill Clinton, a genuinely charismatic speaker (even a cynic like me has felt moved to grab an opportunity to shake his hand) with an impressive international perspective, talked about the role of government, economic success, education in developing countries, working with Ken Livingston on global warming, globalisation, healthcare, how we can stop people turning to terror and much more. He warned that Labour’s achievements are taken for granted.

The biggest headline was for his apparent endorsement of Gordon Brown.

Tony Blair’s speech will be a useful historic document. It outlines many important achievements; too many to list here, honest. It goes from getting the economy right, through gay rights, trade union rights, devolution, investment in public services (last ‘traditional’ NHS winter beds crisis six years ago and all the schools near me have been rebuilt), banning lots of bad stuff and legitimatising lots of good stuff.

The BBC transcript misses the ad lib that got all the headlines.

Of course, you can’t rest on your laurels. Nor can you go on about how the Tories broke Britain with mass unemployment (when I graduated in 1991, not one of my cohort had a job to go to), high interest rates, inflation and negative equity all at the same time. Or talk about how so many of us were ashamed to be British because Britain supported Pinochet in Chile, Saddam in Iraq and defended the Apartheid regime from international censure while insisting Mandela was a terrorist. But the poll tax riots were fun!

Yet media news values seem to have changed too. Today politics is only reported in the language of soap opera… that our ignorance is scary is illustrated by this photo of a blue rinse grandma attending an anti-Iraq war demo and smiling at a ‘stop dictators support a caliphate’ sticker… how dumbed down is that!?

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