Peter Hoskin

Brown’s speech: live blog | 29 September 2009

1404, PH: We’ll be live-blogging Brown’s conference speech from 1415 onwards.  In the meantime, CoffeeHousers, your thoughts on how our PM will kick things off.  Last year, of course, he got Sarah Brown to introduce him.  Will he repeat the trick this year?  Or will he get someone else?  Mandelson, perhaps?  Or someone off X-Factor?  Or will it be nothing flash, just Gordon?  Your predictions, please…

1405, PH:
Brother Massie is also live-blogging the speech here.

1410, PH: Oh, and you can watch the speech here.

1416, PH: So what will Brown actually say?  Well, his announcements on anti-social behaviour and childcare have been heavily trailed.  Apart from that, we can expect some clarification of the dividing line on public spending, as well as some talk about cleaning up politics.

1421, JF: Walking through the conference corridors to the press centre there really isn’t that much of a buzz. This has been a fairly low-key conference and there is surprisingly little anticipation of the leader’s speech, unlike last year people don’t see it as do or die for Brown.

1422, PH: This is as good a time as any to remind you of the Brown Bingo card that a CoffeeHouser put together.  Oversized marker-pens at the ready…

1424, JF: The news that Brown is going to back a recall option is a sign that he is casting around for eye-catching reform initiatives he can be associated with. Suspending ID cards denies the Tories an easy answer to where they would find savings, but one wonders what took Labour so long.

1424, PH: They’re showing a senitmental history of the Labour Party.  Much applause for Nye Bevan, the NHS, SureStart, the minimum wage etc.  This is clearly a Labour crowd-pleaser, but will it make any difference outside the conference hall?

1425, PH:
The video mentions JK Rowling.  One of the “fighters”…

1426, PH:
Oh dear me. They’ve got Sarah Brown to introduce her husband again.

1427, PH: This is shameless. “Gordon and me have been married for 9 years now, we’ve had some tough times…”

1428, PH: Sarah Brown: “I know that he loves our country.”

1429, PH: Sarah Brown is rattling off the superlatvies.  Apparently, Gordon is “gentle”, “kind” and “caring”.

1431, JF: She’s less nervous, more polished than she was last year. “I know he loves our country, I know he will always put you first” is the line.

1432, PH: Now it’s a video stuffed designed to sell Brown to the public.  Bono is one of the talking heads.

1434, JF: How many shots of Brown and Obama together can they get in?

1434, PH: Sarah Brown introduces “my husband, my hero …  Gordon Brown”.

1435, FN: No surprise to see Sarah Brown – probably the smartest person in No10 right now. This time, she should just give the whole speech. Introducing some of the “other people who know Gordon well” – Stern? That bloked he hired then ennobled? Stiglitz? She says he husband is noisy and messy – yes, Sarah, and he has been known to trash the odd economy. She is excellent and speaking human, but that a Prime Ministers need an ambassadors to humans shows just what dire straits he is in. Now follows a cheap trick by Labour to put on a party political video, to try and fool the broadcasters into showing them. The BBC, at least, is wise to it. This video technique is used a lot in America. Utterly fails here if the broadcasters cut away from it.

1436, PH: Brown kicks off: “It is the fighters, not the quitters, who change the world”

1436, PH: He’s already said “fight” a half-dozen times.  “Big choices” has also cropped up.

1437, PH: Brown rattles off Labour achievements: SureStart,  minimum wage, NHS etc. To be fair, it gets him a massive cheer.

1437, PH: Brown thanks his “constant friend” Harriet Harman. Ahem.

1438, PH: Now Brown is thanking Darling.

1439, PH: OH dear, he’s regurgitating jokes: “People ask me what’s happening to the special relationship. And I say Peter and I are getting on just fine.”  He used that one a few days ago…

1440, PH: There’s “big choices” again.

1441, FN: “We’ve changed the world before, and we’ll change the world again” says Brown. Yes, because so ill-regulated were British banks that their bad debts literally spread across the planet. Lists what he has “achieved” since 1997. “Devol-you-shon” his voice is quaking a little. “Cancelling of debt, trebling of aid…”

Oooh, he smiles… joke coming. Memo to self: hold sides, unless they split…

1441, PH: Twice, now, Brown has said that his policies have helped the “hard-working majority, not the privleged few”.  This is going to be one of his central dividing lines…

1442, PH: He’s said “hard-working majority” three times now…

1443, PH: Hm. Brown says the “Global New Deal” will save “15 million jobs”.  And how can we check that, exactly?

1444, PH: Now Brown’s moved into the “do nothing Tories” part of the speech, saying that Cameron & Co. called the recession wrong.

1445, JF: Just leafing through the text, this is going to be a very aggressive speech. Fight is definitely the word of the day.

1445, PH: Now Brown is harkening back to the “lost generation” of the 1980s.

1446, PH: Brown: “It is Labour that is the party of British industry and enterprise”.  The corporation tax levels may say differently…

1447, PH: Brown is saying that the financial crisis was brought about by “right-wing fundamentalism”.  Erm, does anyone else spot the problem with that…

1448, FN: “not one British saver has lost a single penny” he says. But the British taxpayer has lost some £350,000,000,000 via the increase in net debt. Is it rude to point this out? Brown is very lucky that the Tories have not managed to drive home the real cost of the crash.

“Half a million jobs saved” – this is a lie, and one documented here.

“Half a million children lifted out of poverty”. Am pretty sure this is another lie – I’ll get back to you with the figures.

Then he talks about jobs created under Labour. In the private sector, all net job creation is accounted for by immigration.

Returning to his false dichotomy. Only the Tories thought they should “do nothing”… “The Tories were faced with the economic call of the century, and they called it wrong”.   Another lie: the Tories supported the bailout. Brown’s lies really are coming thick and fast.

He’s choking on his words. Says “mainstream minority, em majority”.

1449, JF: Brown is ripping into the Tories and it is clear he really does detest them. It’ll be intriguing to see how this plays outside the hall.

1450, PH:
Now Brown’s listing what he calls the “squeezed middle classes”: the nurses on the ward, the builders on the site etc.

1451, JF: As Brown rails against bankers does he remember who decided their regulatory structure, who used to laud them at dinners and who was so keen to recruit them into his circle?

1451, PH:
Like last year, Brown refers to his eyesight when praising the NHS.

1452, PH: A clumsy bit of triangulation: “Yes, too much government can leave people powerless.  But too much government indifference can leave people powerless too.”  The “third way” sounded so much more convincing when Blair talked about it…

1453, PH: Here’s a question Brown might regret asking: “The question is not whether to change, but how?”  Any ideas, CoffeeHousers?

1455, FN:
Back to his “ordinary” family and his “free” education. “My parents could not easily afford to put me and my brothers”  – he means ‘my brothers and I’ – “through feepaying schools.” No, Brown went to an academically selective education where he had more attention lavished on him than even David Cameron at Eton. Its sickening, in a way, to hear him go on about this. To pretend he was a local kid in a comp. There are, of course, no limits to his stretching the truth.

1456, PH: While Brown is saying that the banks will pay back the people, he’s also praising the industrial and manufacturing sectors – he’s even setting up a fund for small manufacturing firms.  Quite a change from a few years ago, when he used to hail our “world-beating” banks.

1456, JF: Brown’s delivery here is better than it has been in a while. There might not be much substance but there is passion.

1457, PH: Here’s some public spending dividing line stuff: “We will not reduce investment in schools. We will invest more.” I wonder how that lines up with Ed Balls’s claim to be cutting the schools budget?

1458, FN: The banks will pay back the people, he says. Again, a lie. The IMF estinates that, when all is done and dusted, the banks will have taken £130 billion more than they will give back – we’ll never see that money again. Details here.

1459, PH: Now Brown’s into the public finance stuff proper.  He says that there will have to be “tough decisions” made about tax and spending.

1500, PH: Brown says that the Tories would “cut frontline services”.  His deficit reduction plan sounds awfully thin: 50p tax, cutting waste, realistic wage deals etc.  Yet Brown claims Labour will halve the deficit in the next few years.  Hm.

1502, JF: The speech is losing energy now.

1503, PH:
Brown says that he feels “privileged” to have Neil Kinnock in the audience.  The camera cuts to Kinnock and you can’t help but be reminded of 1992 and all that.

1504, PH: Brown thanks Blair for introducing the national minimum wage.

1505, PH: There’s the chidcare pledge.

1506, FN: “Britain started this recession with the second lowest debt of any G7 economy” he says. Yes, and in 1997 it had the lowest debt. Debt will increase faster than in Britain faster than ANY economy in the G7 – this is his failure. Hell, here’s a graph showing it:

1506, PH: It seems Brown is trying to catch up with the Tories’ Broken Britain agenda.  He says his government will not shy away from “social problems,” before going on to mention family breakdown and antisocial behaviour.

1508, JF: It’ll be fascinating to see how the cultural left reacts to the idea of supervised homes for 16 and 17 year old mums. I expect Brown would quite like a fight.

1508, PH: Brown: “Whenever and wherever there is antisocial behaviour, we will be there to fight it.”  He goes on to say that communities will be able to ban 24-hour drinking.

1510, PH: Apparently, neighbourhood police “action squads” will “crack down” on antisocial behaviour.

1511, PH: And there’s the U-turn over ID turns.  “In the next Parliament, there will be no compulsory ID cards for British nationals.”  It gets the biggest round of applause since the beginning of the speech.

1512, PH: Brown says he want to “finish” the peace process which Tony Blair “started”: complete devolution to Northern Irish police forces.

1513. PH: Brown calls on the audience to “pay tribute” to British armed forces.  There’s a lengthy ovation.

1513, PH: There’ll be a lot of people doubting Brown’s pledge that “the forces will have all the equipment they need”.

1515, PH: Wow, it’s taken Brown this long to first mention Barack Obama.

1516, PH: Strange. Brown is going to “pass legislation” which would mean the British government is obliged to increase overseas aid spending to 0.7 percent of GDP.

1517, PH: Brown refers back to the #welovetheNHS Twitter debate of the summer.  He says to the audience: “You fought to save the NHS.”

1519, JF: Brown is indulging in some health jingoism. The healthcare debate in this country is so simplistic it is infuritating.

1520, PH: Here are Brown’s cancer care pledges.  I fear he may be overreaching when he says that he wants to “beat cancer in this generation”.

1521, FN: Afghanistan has very little to do about “terrorism in Britain’s streets” – shows how little understanding Brown has of the war that he even uses this as a reason to fight the campaign.

Another new law “obliging” a British governmnet to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid (Brown’s approach, latterly, was to shrink the economy until it hits this target). Doesn’t he realise how desperate this tooks, this “tying the hands of the tories” tactic? Why would he need to pass a law? How about putting it in a manifesto and letting the public decide? Answer: because he’s worked out how terrified the Tories are of revoking bad Labour laws that could mean bad headlines. The 50p tax – a stupidity test for the Tories as it will lose money – has encouraged Brown  as they will be too scared to revoke what they know is a bad, revenue-losing idea unless they are called names by the press. Brown is rightly playing on the lack of intellectual self-confidence that the Tories still have. For as long as they dare not revoke bad Labour laws, he can go on making new ones.

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1522, PH: I’ve lost count of how many times Brown has said “hard-working majority”.

1522, PH: Now Brown is pledging free personal care for the elderly – not just for the “privileged few, who can afford to pay, but for the hardworking majority”.

1523, PH: Now we’re onto the cleaning up politics section of the speech…

1524, PH: Brown: “We should be in Parliament for what we can give.”  He mentions the recall mechanism.

1525, PH: There’s the big electoral reform announcement.  Brown says that the Labour manifesto will have a commtiment to a referendum on the alternative voting system in “the next Parliament”.  Shame they probably won’t have a chance to enact it.

1526, JF:
The Tory attack section is coming up now. He’ll try and attack the Tories as austere, pessimists and depict Labour as pro-growth opitmists.

1527, PH: Brown says the financial crisis showed that the Tories “have no hearts”.

1527, PH: Brown is being extremely disingenuous, saying that the Tories’ “first priority” is the IHT cut “for the privileged few”.

1528, PH: He just can’t resist the old invesment vs cuts dividing line, can he?  Brown says that the Tories would cut the Home Office budget by the equivalent of “3,000 police men and women”.  I’m sure anyone could go through Brown’s cuts and put them in emotive terms too…

1530, JF:
Brown says Labour will have a manifesto commitment to a referendum on AV early in the next parliament. So, Alan Johnson’s proposal for a refrendum on election day has been rebuffed.

1531, PH: Brown says he is “the guy who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer”.

1532, PH: Now he’s paraphrasing Goethe: “Dream not small dreams…”

1533, FN: Maybe you think it’s because I’m the guy who doesn’t take ‘no’ as an answer” he says now. More like a guy who doesn’t take “go” as an order. “Think big and then fight hard,” he says. “Since 1997, Labour has given this country back its future” – a strange way to describe the doubling of national debt and a net reduction in the number of (non-immigrant) workers in the private sector with a million Brits on benefits throughout that period. Can someone please take him off now? Does no one have one of those stage hooks to grab him?

1533, PH: Brown’s winding down now.  His closing message: “Never stop believing …  Because the task is difficult, the triumph will be even greater.”

1534, PH: “Our guiding duty is to stand, to fight, to win and to serve!”  And that’s it.  Broww gets what seems like quite a healthy ovation.  But you suspect their hearts aren’t really in it…

1537, PH: Well, I suppose that went as well as Brown could expect it to.  He got off to a fiery start, but the whole thing soon started sagging.  Enough to satisfy the conference delegates for today, but not enough to sway hearts and minds outside of the conference hall.  I imagine many swing voters will be asking: where’s the vision?  And they’ll be hard-pressed to find any. 

1539, JF:
My initial reaction to the speech is competent but not a game changer. It pleased the delegates but as with so much of this conference I’m not so sure how it will play outside the hall. The challenge for Cameron now is to make the positive case for a Tory government.


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