Saif Gaddafi emerges defiant in Tripoli

Gaddafi's son, who was reportedly arrested on Sunday, appears on video and declares: "we are winning

"The era of Gaddafi is over," declared Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader of the Libyan rebels, yesterday, and few disagreed with him. But the dramatic reappearance of Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, who was reportedly arrested on Sunday, suggests that the battle for Tripoli could be far more bloody and protracted than the allies expected. It remains unclear whether he escaped from rebel custody or whether he was released as part of a deal. Waheed Burshan, a member of the National Transitional Council, told al-Jazeera: "We had confirmation Saif al-Islam was arrested, but we have no idea how he escaped."

The younger Gaddafi, who drove in an armoured vehicle to the Rixos Hotel, where the foreign press corps is trapped, mimiced his father's rheotric and declared that the "Libyan people rose up yesterday and today, and broke the back of the rebels, and the rats, and the gangs." He added, sounding ever more like the regime's Comical Ali, that: "Everything is normal."

But while his reapperance offers a psychological boost to loyalist fighters, it is insignificant in military terms. There is little prospect of them halting the rebel advance and regaining control of the city. In the meantime, the manhunt for Gaddafi senior, who US officials believe is still in Libya, continues. As Jalil told reporters at the rebel headquarters in Benghazi yesterday: "The real moment of victory is when Gaddafi is captured."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.