Is it too late for the Labour Party to do anything? The delegates at this year’s conference appear not to think so. They loved Peter Mandelson and were coaxed into being enthusiastic about Gordon Brown. But the role of delegates at Labour’s stage-managed conferences now is to be enthusiastic: that's what they're there for. The electorate outside the doors and the security men is unlikely to be so thrilled. Mandelson’s speech, though it certainly had spirit, was precisely the kind of mannered, self-conscious performance that most voters find really offputting. Brown’s speech was certainly not mannered.
If it isn't bad enough that the government believes it can stagger on, Britain's universities are to be made part of the answer to the economic mess. The portfolio of Peter Mandelson, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council – who does he think he is, Thomas Strafford? – will include higher education. Teaching and research are to be considered 'economic sectors', and according to Gordon Brown this reorganisation will lead to a ‘single department committed to building Britain's future economic strengths'. Everything under New Labour, it seems, must have an economic function.