Charlie Whelan says . . .
Don't believe it - "Blair's bold speech"
I wonder how long it took Peter Mandelson to come up with the theme for Tony Blair's big conference speech? It took most of Westminster's finest scribes a couple of minutes to reach the key bit of the speech near the end. "Our relations too, party leadership and members, has to change." Given that Tony's little helper, Peter, was on the telly telling us that this speech was as important as his "Clause Four" job, surely this meant that Blair was about to break the links with the hated trade unions.
"No, no," one scribe said to me, "he would have to make it clearer." This particular hack wasn't around for the Clause Four speech so wasn't aware that Blair never once uttered the words "Clause Four" in that one. In fact, none of the audience was aware that what he had said meant the ditching of Labour's historical links with socialism. Even the BBC missed it, and delegates when questioned about what they thought of Blair's plans asked: "What plans?"
Mandelson, for once, lost his little battle with Blair and Campbell for coming clean over the Prime Minister's secret policy on union links. They decided that now was not the time to announce his plans to break the link. But make no mistake: that is what the particular phrase in the text really meant, even if Campbell did despatch Charles Clarke to the press room to explain that his look into the party structure didn't mean changing the relationship with the unions. Blair needs to sort out state funding for the party before he makes his planned move, and that's what Clarke is up to.
Blair may have conned most of the media that he was for being bold, but he is not bold enough to tell the party what he really thinks, and never has been.