PETER MANDELSON was comprehensively upstaged yesterday by the leader of the Post Office workers' union who derided the destructive briefing of "faceless and spineless backroom boys in Whitehall".
Referring to newspaper reports hinting at the privatisation of the Post Office, Derek Hodgson, leader of the Communication Workers" Union, told the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that his members were "sick and tired of spin and leaks".
Unlike Mr Mandelson's speech, which was greeted with polite applause, the union leader's contribution was punctuated by cheers and concluded in a standing ovation.
An address by Bill Morris, leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, called on the minister not to water down proposals on employment rights and also drew an enthusiastic reception.
Mr Morris later demanded that the "fairness at work" White Paper be implemented in its entirety, including the abolition of the limit on compensation for unfair dismissal.
The debate was a clear victory by "Old Labour" over "New Labour". Mr Hodgson's speech received the most prolonged applause.
The Secretary of State sat stony-faced as Mr Hodgson tore into the anonymous "spinners" of Whitehall.
Mr Hodgson's anger had been prompted by two articles, one of which forecast that Post Office employees would receive pounds 2,000 worth of free shares if the organisation was partially privatised and another which said that senior …