Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

Brighton

The cult of personality that is engulfing this town has now gone too far. The ultraloyal Labour Students organisation has just issued a new recruitment poster, with a photo of the Great Leader, arm outstretched, looking into the middle distance. But look carefully and you can see that the image has been carefully doctored: the Prime Minister's teeth have lost their customary chip. Michael Dugger, the student chairman, comes clean. `OK, yes, we did airbrush the photo.' This adjustment was carried out without the approval of Downing Street. Alastair Campbell would not approve, and it has been suggested that Dugger should be punished for his overzealousness. He has been told he may have to colour in the chip on each and every poster before it goes on display.

Rumours swept the town that Rupert Murdoch was to visit the Labour conference for the first time, though the Sun's political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, denies it was ever a possibility. (Incidentally, he also denies being asked to become William Hague's press secretary, saying, with a glint in his eye, `Why me? I work on a Labour paper, after all.') One of Murdoch's closest advisers is definitely present. Irwin Stelzer acted as Cupid during the Blair-Murdoch courtship. He lives in Washington and London, commuting as freely as others do between the City and the Home Counties. 'I travel 300,000 miles a year,' he says. When asked what mistakes Blair looks like making, he instantly singles out monetary union. As he explains why, a lorry emblazoned with a huge poster drives along the promenade: `It was the Sun wot won it!' Seltzer stares. 'I thought we'd dropped that,' he said, before reflecting, It must be a Daily Mirror stunt.'

The best quote of the conference came when Gary Lineker ended up next to Derek Hatton in the Metropole's gents. `What are you doing here?' enquired Hatton of the former England football star. `Having a pee,' replied Lineker, midstream. Other embarrassing exchanges have been caused by the infamous `ring of steel' that has been thrown around the conference centre. David Frost, arrived after midnight on Sunday, fuming that he had not been recognised and found the security arrangements totally confusing. The SDLP leader John Hume had left his pass in Northern Ireland; again, the Group Four security guards failed to recognise him. An exasperated Labour Party official pointed out that Hume was probably the last Irishman who would plant a bomb at the Labour party conference. He still needed a replacement pass before he got in.

Mariella Frostrup, Chris Eubank, Lenny Henry - a typical line-up for an evening at the Groucho club. But this Sunday they were to be found at the Young Labour disco. What better advertisement for how the party has changed than that it now attracts celebrity guests to its dos. The night was sponsored by Freud Communications and Planet Hollywood and was so packed that MPs and Downing Street staff were turned away. Alas, the guest of honour couldn't make it. The Prime Minister had a bad cold and had retired to bed with a packet of Lemsip to make sure all was well for his big day on Tuesday. Peter Mandelson stole the show, taking to the stage for a dance with Sinead Cusack. On the way out, election victory T-shirts were being sold. Alan McGee, the Labour-supporting boss of Oasis's record company, Creation, had given special permission for a photo of Portillo on election night to be accompanied by the slogan, `What's the story, mourning Tory? …

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