Brown has a vision at last

There are times beyond partisanship when it’s important for a leader to succeed and this was one of them. Gordon Brown pulled it off, I think, leaving us with the question: why hadn’t he done it before? After all he had rivalled Tony Blair at previous conferences but rising to the top job seemed to unnerve, even unman him. Perhaps it took the financial crisis to snap him into it. Springing his wife Sarah on the conference to introduce him showed he wasn’t above a touch of theatre. His harsh tilt at Cameron for using a further touch “my children aren’t props; they’re people” – allowing his kids to be photographed, sounded priggish but showed where he draws the line on theatre and against Cameron whom he unreasonably dislikes.

This speech was all about “letting Gordon be Gordon” – “I’m not going to try to be something I’m not.” Another tilt, ostensibly at Cameron was clearly directed at David Miliband too: “This is no time for a novice.” All the cabinet got name checks, even Shaun Woodward. on the commitment to “ complete devolution.” But I’ve combed through the text twice and I can’t see the reference. As so often Northern Ireland was a fumbled afterthought.
A word of mea culpa was right. “Where I’ve made mistakes I’ll put my hand up and try to put them right. So what happened with 10p stung me because it really hurt that suddenly people felt I wasn’t on the side of people on middle and modest incomes – because on the side of hard-working families is the only place I’ve ever wanted to be. And from now on it’s the only place I ever will be.”

“Fairness” is too flat a theme to inspire me, the “new settlement for a new age” had the right level of ambition. “And so it falls to this party and to this government,… that we do all it takes to stabilise the still turbulent financial markets and then in the months ahead we rebuild the world financial system around clear principles. I and then Alistair will meet financial and government leaders in New York to make these proposals:

First, transparency – all transactions need to be transparent and not hidden.

Second, sound banking, a requirement to demonstrate that risks can be managed and priced for bad times as well as good.

Third, responsibility – no member of a bank’s board should be able to say they did not understand the risks they were running and walk away from them.

Fourth, integrity – removing conflicts of interest so that bonuses should not be based on short term.

My doubts about London’s future as a world financial centre were dismissed. ( glad you were browsing Gordon) . “And if we make these changes I believe London will retain its rightful place as the financial centre of the world.”

There were the lollipops that Brown loves to toss out – more nursery places and free internet and broadband for kids, free annual check-ups for the over 40s, free prescriptions for all cancer patients.

There was a staking out of the fightback against the Conservatives around the NHS and a jibe that raised the roof at Tory charges of his profligate spending: :“We did fix the roof while the sun was shining!”. But on the cost of the “new settlement” no details, just the usual ominous rhetoric; “And so there are tough choices and I have to say that as a result of the events of recent weeks there are going to be tougher choices we will have to make and priorities we will have to choose.”

First reactions, more guarded from the Guardian, “ he’s done enough for now”; “ a breathing space” from the Times; and surprisingly from the Daily Mail “ the speech of a lifetime.” Worth including is the live sketch of the speech, increasingly a feature of the web editions of the papers and very good too.

  • “The Conservatives say our country is broken – but this country has never been broken by anyone or anything.

    This country wasn’t broken by fascism, by the cold war, by terrorists. …

    And just as we celebrated our national triumph when we won the 2012 games for London, so too were Andy Burnham, Tessa Jo well and I, along with all of you, filled with pride this summer as our Olympic and Paralympics heroes showed British brilliance at its best.

    That’s why for all the challenges, I don’t believe Britain is broken – I think it’s the best country in the world.

    I believe in Britain.

    And stronger together as England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland we can make our United Kingdom even better. In the years to come we will work to complete the process of devolution in Northern Ireland.” BBC

  • “In the years ..” is missing from the Labour party site so it looks very much like an afterthought.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    His father was a Presbyterian minister, so that makes him better educated than Cameron in my book. Scottish Labour isn’t the same as English labour, there’s a world of difference. Pity Gordon hadn’t some charisma about him, as English labourites fall for that sort of thing. Sad to say, he’ll fall quicker than he rose, so it’s time for him to do something on a monumental scale for the UK.

  • Brian, NI got two mentions, the other UK parts one each.

    Gordon’s word cloud [gif]

  • Dave

    Bottom line: The Conservative Party has an unprecedented 28-point lead over the Labour Party. Like Hussein, Browne may go to the gallows talking tough but the tough talk won’t stop the trap door from swinging open beneath him.

  • dewi

    Ain’t read the links but saw the speech – Nos Da Gordon – or Nos Da Labour unless someone has guts.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think that Gordon Brown has come out fighting with this speech. The parts referring to 10p tax are pretty miserable, he didn’t admit that he was wrong. To me that fiasco was his single biggest mistake, and all that stuff he’s saying about wanting to help people who can’t afford to pay their bills seems ridiculous given that the tax change he put through was clearly actively designed to take money off the poorer workers in this country.

    But the radical stuff about the NHS and about trying to fix the world financial system I found a lot more invigorating. The speech may at least temporarily quench some of the internal rumblings about his future.

    On the other hand, the guy’s problem is that during the various issues we’ve had over the past year, not only has he screwed up, but he has been invisible; out of sight. Unfortunately I think that is a personality trait of his and it’s the single thing that I think will lead to his downfall. If he fixes that, he may just be able to pull this off.

  • Brian Walker

    Comrade,you say: “The parts referring to 10p tax are pretty miserable, he didn’t admit that he was wrong”. Brown quote: “And where I’ve made mistakes I’ll put my hand up and try to put them right. So what happened with 10p stung me because it really hurt that suddenly people felt I wasn’t on the side of people on middle and modest incomes – because on the side of hard-working families is the only place I’ve ever wanted to be. And from now on it’s the only place I ever will be.”
    I think absolutely was an admission he was wrong, that was the point of the passage, although ok he said “people felt…” so he didn’t quite hit the bottom line. But an admission he was wrong it was, from a politician who more than most, hates admitting a mistake – and has been distrusted for it.

  • Llamedos

    Brown is not the only party leader with a badly disabled child. However like all Presbyterians and Roman Catholics he was taught at the school, with the easily forgettable motto, that he was taught correctly and therefore every one else must be wrong. He is psychologically unsound witness his nail biting. He is the sole architect of our present economic plight. Luckily only blind socialists will still continue to have any iota of faith in him.

  • Dewi

    I’m a blind socialist and I have no faith in him. This “Britain” and “country” stuff is bizarre. The blind loyalty of his cabinet is what you need to worry about.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Brian, I do not agree. I believe that some clever speechwriters put “mistakes” and “10p tax” closely together to make it seem that way. But I think the speech was quite carefully written to avoid saying that he was wrong and avoid apologising. I think the fact that he said how the reaction took him by surprise shows how arrogant he was, or is.

    I don’t understand how anyone with their brain plugged in could believe that the tax band/rate changes of a year ago (removing the 10p band which he brought in, for pete’s sake, in one of the Blair government’s finer moments) could be in any way spun as anything other than taking money off poor people and giving it to the middle classes. You can’t spin your way out of that when people see it right there in their pay packets. What’s so scary here is that the speech shows no indication that he has actually figured that out. I mean, politicians can get out of touch, but this really takes the cake.

    But on the whole it was a good speech. As I said, I thought Brown was finished but now I think he’s got a distant fighting chance. I actually enjoyed the first few months of his leadership; all the talk about reform of parliament, the reworking of the relationship with the US, the apparent backing away from ID cards, and of course the firm but not over the top handling of the airport incendiary/car bomb attacks. It was quite a good start. It all went pear shaped on the day he said he wasn’t going to call an election after having deliberately allowed the speculation to run. He ran away and hid from the world. If he can come out and somehow get back onto the track he was on when he got started, as I say, there might be a chance that things will go his way.

  • Llamedos

    His cabinet will go down with him, all stood on the bridge dutifully awaiting his order to abandon the good ship Clause Four, which he has just stranded on the Northern Rock, which order will never come as all go down and perish with Cap’n Gordie.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jesus, you’re not still on about clause four, are you. It has feck all to do with the problems right now.

  • Llamedos

    Comrade Stalin:
    The Effing ship was called Clause Four. However from watching the conference I see the economic Luddites were back in force.They wanted to nationalise whatever and wherever their venomous class hatred took them. Just like your namesake! Leopards never change their spots.The problem McBrunn has leading this totally ineffectual crew is that utilising their combined mental efforts they could not think themselves out of a refuse sack.

  • Llamedos

    Comrade Stalin:
    The Effing ship was called Clause Four. However from watching the conference I see the economic Luddites were back in force.They wanted to nationalise whatever and wherever their venomous class hatred to them. Just like your namesake! Leopards never change their spots.The problem McBrunn has leading his totally ineffectual crew is that utilising their combined mental efforts they could not think themselves out of a refuse sack.

  • Llamedos

    Comrade Stalin:
    The Effing ship was called Clause Four. However from watching the conference I see the economic Luddites were back in force.They wanted to nationalise whatever and wherever their venomous class hatred to them. Just like your namesake! Leopards never change their spots.The problem McBrunn has leading his totally ineffectual crew is that utilising their combined mental efforts they could not think themselves out of a refuse sack.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Llamedos,

    The trade unions have always been coming off with that stuff, right through the Blair years. I get the impression they’re allowed out to frolic at party conference, and then unceremoniously put back in their box until another year rolls around.