Wednesday 24 September 2008

After Manchester

Gordon Brown gave the speech his party wanted and needed to hear. He is a good man leading a good government, which is proud of much of its record, but not satisfied that it has done enough or should merely defend past achievements. Labour is clear that it has not exhausted its ambitions for change, and so must now try to persuade the country of that too.

The speech was often moving. Its themes unite the party. That was the Gordon Brown that Labour wants Britain to see, fusing his personal mission with his party’s fairness DNA.The leadership question has been postponed and Brown considerably strengthened in his own party, compared to his position just this last weekend.

But none of us in Manchester can know whether or how far the argument will also be heard by the voters. The one regret is that he did not make that speech a year ago, when all of the attention and momentum was his, yet the argument for fairness was muted.

Now, in tougher times his personal and political fightback has begun. The global economic and domestic political crises have together altered the political climate. At a low ebb, the government has become less risk averse and more explicitly social democratic.

One announcement which is perhaps more important than many people realise: Gordon Brown’s commitment to legislate for the goal of ending child poverty offers an important example of entrenching Labour’s legacy, defining its future agenda and testing the Conservative claim to be ‘progressive’ go together.

I write more about this in a piece at Comment is Free.

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