It was clear from the outset that Tony's appearence at Trimdon Labour Club was going to be an occasion which defied political conventions. Driving up to Trimdon, it felt somehow as if I was going to the funeral of someone close, accompanied by all those familiar feelings of sadness and anger and regret. Yet the mood in the hall was relentlessly upbeat, and a casual observer from Mars would be forgiven for assuming that we were celebrating another famous election victory. And to explode the funeral metaphor, the corpse was very much alive and kicking.
As befitted the occasion, Tony's speech was like no other - either delivered by him or any other departing Prime Minister. Movingly, he seemed to be struggling against his own emotions throughout - little wonder. There was the expected reference to the achievements of Labour in government since 1997. He covered the problems too, and articulated how lonely it must be at the top when ultimately all you can do is to trust your own judgement.
At the end, he wound up with a paeon of praise for Britain and its people. Talking to a senior local reporter afterwards, he felt that that part of the speech seemed loose and didn't work. I felt that was the point - entirely unscripted, Tony was simply telling us what had helped motivate him in politics for so long.
Afterwards, one final chance to cheer and clap, and then he and Cherie were gone. We mingled once more like mourners, exchanging anecdotes about the election results across the region, and then called it a day.