Gordon, not Tony
After a decade of impatiently waiting, Gordon Brown has finally addressed the Labour party conference as party leader and Prime Minister. The over riding message of the past few months from Brown is “change” or to be more precise – “I am not Tony Blair”. Yesterday it was plain to see that he is not Tony Blair. In a speech that some have described as “deliberately dull” Gordon Brown did what he does best – kept it dull.
He is no show man, unlike Blair and he wants give the impression that the future is about politics, not personalities – which is just as well as he does seem to lack one. But you can tell he is trying to jazz himself up a bit. Compared to his budget speeches, yesterday was roller coaster ride in excitement. We heard about his rugby playing days, he had “celebrity” guest John Smeaton in the audience (terrorist combater come occasional baggage handler at Glasgow airport) and he even spoke about his dad. But what is the game plan?
Big Tent Politics
Gordon’s big tent politics was the undertone of the whole speech. Brown wants his government to be the government of the people, not the Labour party. He didn’t once mention Cameron or Campbell. He stayed away from Punch and Judy altogether. Even his backdrop wasn’t Labour red… it was Tory blue! He didn’t hark back to 10 years of Labour success like Blair and Prescott loved to do, he talked (in the driest of tones) of the future. He didn’t mention fighting for an historic Labour forth term. This was a speech from a man who was not interested in party politics – he was interested in doing what he thinks he should do. And it seems most of us quite liked the whole idea. But why?
Not Flash, Just Gordon
I ask why because, surely a grass roots Labour supporter would want their leader to be governing as a Labour leader. Yet it seems the party love Brown. While it is clear that a grass roots Tory supporters can not stand the idea of having a populist leader who wants to govern for the people. Tory supporters want their leader to a Tory, blue through and through. And that is the key – while the speech sounded like it was giving a new vision and packed with new policies, it was actually saying very little that was new. It did show, however, how unified the Labour party are compared with the Tories. Brown is in charge and he will decide what the party say and do. If he wants to woo Tory voters, then his party is behind him. If he wants to have Lib Dems as advisors, the party is behind him. And what better way to marginalise, if not destroy the Conservative party?
I am sure Cameron’s speech next week will be far more interesting and may even have a little humour in it, but I doubt it will be received nearly as well as Brown’s was yesterday. The irony being, it’s still not so much what you say, but how you say it and whether you can keep your troops in line. Dull is the new showman - whether this is a passing fad or long term trend time will tell. For now though, it may not have been flash, but that is Gordon.
Wallowing in Speculation
The subject of whether there will be an election was dead and buried only a couple of weeks ago. It was a commonly accepted that of course Brown won’t call a snap election in October. Then a poll comes out showing an eight point lead and all of sudden the rumours are rife again. I am on record a number of time saying he won’t hold one this year and I still don’t think he will – but he is having a great time winding everyone up about it. The Tories must be terrified knowing that he will ruin their conference if he announces one next week. The line he keeps coming out with is that he wants to get on with the job and not to speculate on any early election. What a load of rubbish! He is loving this. Gordon: if you really mean what you say, then there is one way you could end all this now – tell us if you want one or not!
As well as Gordon Brown’s speech was received, give me a Prescott speech any day. It was this time last year Prescott gave his final speech to conference before hanging up his boxing gloves. It was very amusing – though I am sure he had no intention of it being so. It did leave me feeling glad that the PM would never have to leave the running of the country in the hands of this man again. As it appears we won’t be hearing anything approaching entertaining from this year’s Labour conference, here are a couple of classic quotations:
“Coming from low demand, houses available, prices falling. Depends from area to area, but if you go to the south, it’s exactly the opposite.”
“The green belt is a Labour achievement, and we mean to build on it”
And, my personal favourite, after returning from his first foreign trip as a Minister -
“It’s great to be back on terra cotta.”
Too see my favourite ever PMQs click here - it was Prescott vs Hague and is ten minutes or so of the funniest duelling ever seen in the Commons.