Peter Hoskin

What was in Brown’s speech for those turning away from Labour?

What was in Brown's speech for those turning away from Labour?
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Much like Peter Mandelson's address yesterday, Gordon Brown's speech was designed for the Labour Party members inside the conference hall.  It was effectively book-ended by two crowd-pleasing rat-a-tat lists: the first, a rundown of Labour "achievements" which received massive cheers; and the second, a disingenuous account of Tory measures "for the privileged few", designed to draw hisses and boos from the audience.  All very pantomine.  And all very fun, I'm sure, for the party faithful.

But what about those voters who are turning away from Labour in their droves?  What was there for them?  Well, having Sarah Brown introduce her husband again was a cynical attempt to reach out to what Gordon might call the "hardworking majority," but what might more accurately be termed "Normal Britain".  While Brown himself had a range of policies - free childcare, a crackdown on anti-social behaviour, supervised housing for young mothers - which were heavily trumped up, but which failed to add up to a cohesive whole.  His promise to hold a referendum on electoral reform after the next election rather summed it up: it's Brown's biggest attempt yet to heal the democratic deficit, but most voters know it probably won't see the light of day.

In the end, Brown got the hearty standing ovation he must have wanted - much like he did last year.  But, this time, things are different.  In 2008, he needed to give a speech to save himself from those plotters looking to knife him in the back.  He largely succeeded.  Today, by contrast, he needed to give a speech which saves his party from electoral annihilation.  On that count, I suspect he's failed.