Sketch: Don’t mention the Blair!

John McDonnell spoke at the Labour conference today
John McDonnell spoke at the Labour conference today
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WHEN John McDonnell praises the work of the Blair government, you know Labour is working hard to present a united front.

True, the Shadow Chancellor actually referred to “the government elected in 1997” - he could not bring himself to utter the ‘B-word’ despite Mr Blair being the only person to lead Labour to three consecutive election wins.

But, as Jeremy Corbyn might say, from small acorns grow big olive trees.

In fact, the extension of olive branches did not just extend to the former prime minister, contemporary critics of the leadership including Don Valley MP Caroline Flint and Mr Corbyn’s challenger Owen Smith also received positive namechecks.

But at this conference Labour unity is akin to an underpowered rocket.

It strains to break earth’s gravity only to inevitably tumble back to earth.

Mr McDonnell’s speech came to its climax with the rousing call: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it’s called Socialism.”

He may as well have screamed: “Jeremy won - again - and now all those moderates need to just shut up and take it.”

While Corbyn’s Labour holds one conference in the main hall, the fringe meeting rooms are full of former frontbenchers making the case for the party to head in a very different direction.

And token mentions of a former leader and some dissident MPs is not going to paper over that very wide crack.