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Softly spinning away;Diary;Opinion;News amp; Opinion

FAREWELL, then, Conor Ryan. No longer the shadow at David Blunkett's elbow; no longer the soft Irish voice at the end of the telephone. The most special of special advisers is gone.

Blunkett's loss is Frank Dobson's gain. In a whirlwind manoeuvre, Conor had no sooner announced that he was becoming Dobbo's mayoral campaign manager than he was gone.

It's not so surprising. Conor is New Labour to his brogues, has long been involved in London Labour circles (he's an ex-Inner London Education Authority press officer), and is apparently considered the best spinner outside Downing Street. Dobbo's bandwagon, with wheels falling off left, right and centre, needed urgent righting and Conor's the man.

But where does that leave Blunkett - the man he has served faithfully since joining his team in opposition? Conor hints he may not be replaced - "Julia (Simpson, head of the DFEE press office) has been doing a good job," says a source close to the education secretary (ah, we shall never write those words again). And after the campaign is over? Will he come back? Conor will not be drawn.

The Diary realises that readers who live in the real world may be asking Conor who? Indeed, it's the greatest tribute you could pay a man who has always shunned the limelight. So, as a final mark of his passing, we print a picture of him in full spin at last year's Labour party conference.

And with one bound he was gone.

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