James Forsyth

Brown’s speech to Congress: Live blog

Brown's speech to Congress: Live blog
Text settings

Gordon Brown is about to deliver his speech to a Joint Session of Congress. When Blair addressed one in 2003, he received 19 standing ovations. Brown by having the Queen offer the ailing Teddy Kennedy an honorary knighthood has sweetened the mood and guaranteed him a few standing ovations. 

One problem for Brown is that it is harder to hit the rhetorical high notes in a speech that focuses mainly on the economy than in one on foreign policy. Whatever you think of the content, Blair's speech in 2003 was a rhetorical tour de force. In that respect, the bar is set almost impossibly high for Brown. He's also far less of a draw in the US. As one US journalist friend of mine said to me last night, 'Brown's a good second or third story' while Blair was a lead.

4.10 Congress rises to applaud Brown. Brown starts by saying how ‘America’s faith in the future’ is an inspiration to him and the whole world: a crowd-pleasing start.  

4.15 Brown is cleverly using Reagan’s rhetoric to praise Obama. Brown’s speech have always owed almost as much to American politicians as Joe Biden’s did to Neil Kinnock so expects lots of well-chosen phrases.

4.20 The announcement of Edward Kennedy’s knighthood wins Brown another standing ovation.

4.25 A Labour PM travelling to Washington to praise Reagan for winning the Cold War: Thatcher, history and Blair really have changed the Labour party. 

So far we have already had quotes from Winthrop, Reagan, Kennedy and Lincoln—and that’s just the ones I’ve noticed. 

4.30 Brown is playing it safe, praising the military and the shared sacrifices of ther two countries.

‘Partnership of purpose’ really is an awful sound-bite.

4.35 Now, Brown is moving onto the economy—expect a few fewer ovations now. Oddly, Brown’s intro sounds rather like a section of Joe Biden’s speech at the Democratic Convention.

The audience suggests that Representatives are getting younger, or they really have used staffers to fill the audience as Guido hears.

The much-trailed criticism of protectionism turns out to be fairly milquetoast.

4.40 Brown is coming close to suggesting that opposing Obama’s stimulus plan is un-American. It shows just how keen he is to hitch himself to Obama’s wagon.

Just heard a Bush phrase, ‘dictatorship of oil.’ One wonders whether Brown is going to borrow from all 44 presidents in this speech!

'The new frontier is that there is no frontier'--a new Brownism.

4.42 Brown starts making the case for coordinated global action. He talks about outlawing offshore tax havens which is rather ironic as when he was Chancellor many in America grumbled about London being the biggest tax haven of all. 

Brown, though, is using his religiously-infused language to good effect. 

4.50 Brown ties together FDR, Reagan and Obama as the standard-bearers of American optimism.

He finishes with the line ‘let us build tomorrow today’. My instant reaction, is that it was a fairly well crafted and decently delivered speech. But I find it hard to see how this will give him any real bounce domestically. 

PS The BBC says Brown got 11 standing ovations, so eight less than Blair.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Topics in this articleSociety