A BELEAGUERED Tony Blair received a boost last night when he escaped a bloody nose in Bournemouth from delegates angry over the war in Iraq.

To the fury of left-wing activists, constituency parties and trade unions rejected the chance to vote on the Iraq invasion as one of four contemporary resolutions.

Instead, the conference opted to debate and vote on government policy on health, employment rights, occupational pensions and manufacturing.

All four issues received the backing of more than 50 per cent of delegates and affiliated organisations, with the Iraq furore in a distant fifth place, with only 22 per cent support.

The vote left the Prime Minister facing a rocky ride later this week over the creation of foundation hospitals, which is likely to dominate the health debate, and trade union laws.

Left wing delegates could still choose to attack the invasion and occupation of Iraq on Wednesday, in a debate called Britain in the World.

The delegates' decision was a crumb of comfort for the Prime Minister after weekend polls saw Labour popularity slump to its lowest ebb under his leadership.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Gordon Brown was today set to risk the wrath of the Labour rank-and-file when he defends tuition fees and foundation hospitals in his keynote conference speech.

Mr Brown will send out a firm New Labour message that he wants the party to stand for enterprise and small businesses, echoing Mr Blair's warning against a "lurch to the left".

The speech will risk a repeat of the frosty reception Mr Brown received at the TUC conference earlier in the month, but he will insist there will be no backing down on controversial policies.

Sources close to the Chancellor said Mr Brown would not pull any punches.

"He is saying Labour will be the party of small business and enterprise - that is not an Old Labour message," they said.

The Chancellor will announce he is pressing on with his policy of bringing in differing regional pay levels for public sector workers, but full details will come in his pre-Budget report next month.

The policy will see workers in London and the home counties being paid more for doing the same job than people in the Midlands and the North.

The Chancellor will claim Britain is in pole position to become the world's first country to combine enterprise with fairness and become a beacon to the US and Europe.

And he will say that, despite the difficult global conditions, the UK can combine economic strength with wiping out child and pensioner poverty.

* Debates at the conference today include Prosperity for All with speaker Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt; Britain and the Global Economy, Chancellor Gordon Brown; Sustainable communities, better transport, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Enhancing the Quality of Life, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Tessa Jowell.