A passionate Prime Minister

Gordon Brown today made his first speech that really sounded like a Prime Minister’s. He was personal, he was passionate, he spoke from deep knowledge and experience. His idealism soared. He was even convincing.

But he was addressing the Israeli Parliament.

Why can’t he do this at home?

There was a different angle to the obligatory reference to Northern Ireland…
First he talked about his late father.

My father was a Minister of the Church who learned Hebrew and had a deep and life long affection for Israel. For three decades he was a member of – and again and again Chairman of – the Church of Scotland’s Israel Committee. And he travelled back and forth to Israel twice every year, often more.

After each trip, he would roll out the old film projector, plug it in and load the film. More often than not, the projector would break down – but he would always get it back up and running. And I will never forget those early images of your home in my home and the stories my father would tell.

So as I learned to listen and to read, I followed the fortunes of an age-old people in your new country. And there was never a time as I was growing up that I did not hear about, read about or was not surrounded by stories of the struggles, sacrifices, tribulation and triumphs as the Israeli people built their new state. And I am proud to say that for the whole of my life, I have counted myself a friend of Israel.

Then about his two young sons.. no holding back the family here.. with wife Sarah sitting alongside..

My sons are still young children – they are just two and four. They have not yet made that journey to Jerusalem made by their grandfather and then his sons. But one day soon I look forward to bringing them here to see what their grandfather first came to see in the early years of statehood.

I will walk with them here and tell them the story that for two thousand years, until 1948, the persistent call of the Jewish people was ‘Next year in Jerusalem.’ Yet for two thousand years there was not one piece of land anywhere in all the world that you could call your own. For two thousand years, not one piece of land of your own to follow your faith without fear.

Finally the homely associations..

when young children in my home town of Kirkcaldy returned from Auschwitz they organised a memorial week in honour of those who had died in the Holocaust and raised funds to erect a lasting memorial in our town’s gardens. Two thousand miles away in distance – but a link between my home and your home, so close that it will never be broken.

The Northern Ireland reference was slightly different from the usual “lessons of terrorism through dialogue” theme .

Britain is also ready to lead the way in supporting an economic road map for peace. Not money for guns but money for jobs, for businesses, for small firms, for housing and for prosperity to underpin the political road map for peace and give all people in the region an economic stake in the future. As we did in Northern Ireland: to make the cost of returning to violence too high and too unacceptable a price to pay.

Was he saying that the British government fattened up NI so well that the paramilitaries dared not go back to the campaigns? That seems franker than usual.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London