Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Blair wrote the speech himself"

Do you remember that advert "The Independent - It is, are you?" It came to my mind the morning of Tony Blair's big Brighton speech, when I read the paper's front-page story telling readers what Blair would say to the nation. Before Gordon Brown had time to milk his applause, a team of Blair spin-doctors burst into the press room to tell the hacks what the great leader would be telling us the next day.

They, like Blair, hadn't bothered to watch Brown's speech. Only Blair matters. When the lobby hacks were told with a straight face that Blair had written the speech himself, there was plenty of tittering among the hardbitten cynics in the room. That did not stop the Independent's political editor, Andy Grice, telling his dwindling band of readers the next day as fact: "The Prime Minister wrote the first draft of the speech himself, breaking with his normal practice of seeking drafts from his advisers."

Philip Webster of the Times was rightly a little more sceptical and wrote of this as being "reported" - ie, it's bollocks. Everyone knows that Blair can't write speeches, though he has found new writers since he became leader and Gordon Brown stopped writing them for him. These days, Blair has a team of at least ten to do the job for him. All he has to do is give his usual masterly performance, which is why, according to a member of the TGWU, he left that union and joined Equity.

Ed Balls gave the best performance of the week when briefing hacks after his boss's speech. The Mail broke with tradition and named him as the source. Balls may get his revenge by excluding that paper in future so that it would have no clue what the Chancellor was up to.