Heckles, jeers, silence and a walkout greeted Tony Blair’s last speech to the TUC in September 2006. Commentators reflected on what a world of difference nine years can make. In 1997 Blair had been treated to a rapturous welcome and tumultuous standing ovation as Congress acclaimed the end of 18 years of Conservative rule. ‘The rhetoric of opposition’, TUC general secretary John Monks remarked, ‘is no longer appropriate’ (TUC 1997: 4). Within a few short years many union leaders spoke little else. As Blair prepared to quit Downing Street, relations between a Labour government and the unions were at their lowest ebb since the Winter of Discontent of 1978-9.