Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Delegates walk out of Blair address

Tony Blair today addressed the Trades Union Congress for the final time and, as had been rumoured, delegates of the RMT and FBU staged a walk out.

Blair had joked last week that his final appearance at the TUC would be a relief for both parties. And so it proved as a clearly angry Blair fielded questions and endured heckles when he spoke on Iraq. The demonstration is believed to have been led by the RMT and the Fire Brigades' Union (neither Labour affiliated) and around 30 of their number walked out when Mr Blair arrived on stage.

While Blair allowed that the protestors were entitled to show their dissatisfaction, the merits of this kind of protest are questionable. It immediately attracts sympathy for the speaker who is forced to struggle on through the catcalls and heckles. Moreover, the speaker can turn it to their advantage- as Blair perhaps did- by saying, "I'm willing to discuss this. Aren't you?". As the prime minister went on to say, the behaviour of those few delegates is exactly what opposition groups want to see.

Like much of the name calling and back-biting of the last couple of weeks today's demonstration is notable only for its futility. It's time for those who matter to consider the policies and arguments which will still have to be made when Blair does go.


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