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Home > Politics

New Labour, New Tricks

4 October 2005

This year's Labour party conference will probably not be remembered as the one in which Tony Blair faced down Gordon Brown and secured Britain's future with another four years of his own leadership. Neither will it be remembered as the one in which Jamie Oliver's policies were finally turned into proper Labour promises. More likely this conference will stand out as the one where Labour started to show their true colours, where they were revealed for the sweet-snatching, coke-snorting elder-abusers they really are.

First, there was the drugs scandal, care of those guardians of moral propriety, the Evening Standard. Fresh from shocking the nation by proving - with the use of science - that the world of fashion has been infiltrated by cocaine, the Standard took their swabs to Brighton and it turns out - you'll never guess - the world of politics has also succumbed. Something the Standard might want to consider of course is what fashion and politics have in common. That thing of course is the media. Therefore, it would be very interesting to see the results of a good swabbing of the Standard's own cistern tops, but that's probably not going to happen. So, Labour - let's say it's true. Let's say the vast majority of Labour politicians are in fact insatiable coke-fiends. Would it matter? Of course not. So long as they were making a positive difference to our lives... Ah.

Unfortunately, the coke revelations rather pale into insignificance compared to the damage done to the party's reputation by what is already being referred to in some quarters as Wolfgate. Walter Wolfgang, a Labour party member for 57 of his 82 years, was tolerating a self-congratulatory speech about the Iraq war by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Wednesday night. At a certain point however, it all became too much and Wolfgang uttered a single word of dissent. He uttered the word 'nonsense'. For this he was unceremoniously dragged from the conference and later - when he attempted to re-enter - detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

It's the kind of story that when you first hear it, you assume
it's a joke. Why would a ruling political party remove and arrest an 82-year-old man for calling out 'nonsense' during a speech which was clearly composed of utter nonsense? There can be only one reason. They have no comeback. And in the absence of a comeback, all they can think to do is remove the dissent. It beggars belief.

The fact that senior Labour figures have spent the last 24 hours apologising, and even the fact that Wolfgang was allowed back into the conference yesterday to loud applause will do little to remove from the public perception the feeling that this government are a bunch of heavy-handed bastards who are terrified of anyone speaking out against them. Although in his GMTV apology, Blair basically passed the buck and said he wasn't there so it wasn't his fault, Wolfgang's ejection for his one-word supermild heckle is part of New Labour's new conference policy. Silencing dissenting voices is official Labour party policy.

In other conference news, Eileen Bennett of Unison was refused admission with a pack of boiled sweets in case she chose to pelt the speaker, and a dozen pensioners who got nude to protest having their pensions stolen were completely ignored. Indeed, if this conference has proved anything, it has proved that New Labour hate old people. So much so that Walter Wolfgang can probably count himself lucky he wasn't tasered. Or worse.

Hopefully, when all is said, done and quite quickly forgotten, if this conference is remembered for anything, it'll be remembered as Tony Blair's last. Blunkett's too. And Straw's. Etc.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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