Gordon’s speech – my verdict

Perhaps the main topic of speculation at this year’s Labour Conference has been what will be the reaction to Gordon’s speech. The speculation was pointless as what Gordon said and how he delivered it was always going to be pretty much irrelevant. The mood of delegates was to rally around and he was always guaranteed a standing ovation. Even the critics will turn out to praise it, as I type up pops Unite’s Derek Simpson, offering the predicted praise.

For me the best line was ‘"I am all in favour of apprenticeships, but let me tell you this is no time for a novice," which I’m fairly sure was aimed at young Mr Cameron as well as a certain Cabinet colleague!

The worst line was his ill-judged swipe at politicians who use their families to gain media coverage, saying: "My children aren’t props; they’re people." It was a childish attack on Cameron that simply demonstrated that Brown fails to get politics 2.0 and understand that it is 2008. It also jarred with his introduction by Sarah Brown – either your family is part of you, or isn’t it. If you’re in public life, you don’t get to choose just because you want to boost your conference speech. That was crass.

Starting with the apology for the 10p tax rate was good.

On policy I liked the fact he restated the plan to extend free nursery places for all two-year-olds over the next 10 years. This is a clear point of difference with the Tories, showing how Labour is offering parents choice, where as Cameron thinks he can preach family values.

The computers and internet access for poorer families was another good announcement, although I think it could have been done with a bit more belief and enthusiasm. I’m not sure Gordon sounded convinced it was a good idea, which makes it more challenging to convince other sceptics.

And the free prescriptions for those suffering cancer is the right thing to do. The challenge for us loyal party members is to make sure that voters know it was Labour that did it.

4 Replies to “Gordon’s speech – my verdict

  1. How he delivered it was always going to be interesting, although maybe only to politics watchers like myself.

    He started on blistering form, straight to the hard stuff. And I quite liked the oblique nature of the Cameron reference. For a while, it looked like that was going to be the only dig at the Tories – which would certainly have been an interesting strategy. A bit much to expect, though, as it turned out.

    There's good sense in an approach based on 'a serious man for serious times'. He simply can't do 'soft' stuff, and even the personal lines felt awkward. But when it comes to his causes, the things which clearly stir his blood, he can be very persuasive. Maybe a bit more fist-clunking wouldn't be a bad thing.

  2. Hi Stuart,

    I thought his speech was excellent and just what we needed . I thought the props joke was spot on . Sarah is known and has been seen before on tv, as is Cameron's wife.

    His kids aren't but Cameron's were used and their picture shown on the press and TV.

    Apart from that I agree with a lot of what you say !

    Best Wishes


  3. Hi Gerry, thanks for commenting. I didn't like the children as props line, because it sounded like 20th century politics rather than how politics is in 2008. What I didn't realise then is that GB had already used his own "children as props", which makes the accusation seem even more crass.

  4. Hi Stuart

    Interesting to see your thoughts on the big speech. My view, as someone who doesn't support any party, is that these set pieces rarely have the impact on ordinary voters that politicos would have us believe. (In part because broadcasters show so little of the action in news bulletins, preferring to give a running, opinionated commentary.)

    I'm surprised that Brown hasn't faced more criticism for the stunt of being introduced by his PR consultant wife. It wasn't just that it contradicted his jibe about not using family as stunts. It went against all those promises to abandon spin.

    Tony Blair sustained a lot of damage through Alastair Campbell's over zealous news management. But the Ruth Kelly resignation today is yet another example of how Gordon Brown is suffering from the opposite sin: incompetent and unprofessional media relations. Ultimately, that will have more impact than a conference speech, however brilliant.

    I happened to listen to the prime minister's back to back interviews this morning with 5 Live's Nicky Campbell and Today's James Naughtie. You could almost hear Brown wincing at Campbell's clumsy questions attacking almost every aspect of his personality. By contrast, he handled Naughtie's far more reasonable interview with considerable dignity. But I couldn't help feeling sorry for the man. And when a politician reaches that stage, you know the game is almost up.

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