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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Brown delivers a leader's speech
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website in Brighton

Gordon Brown's big Labour conference speech was as billed - and it amounted to a full-blown leader's speech.

Chancellor Gordon Brown, pictured as he delivers his speech in Brighton
Brown: Is the long wait nearly over?

Not a leadership bid or even the now near-traditional setting out of his credentials.

This was the sort of speech - ranging over all areas of policy, offering vision and even personal insights - that party leaders offer their party faithful.

It is hard to believe the chancellor will be able to top it next year if he is not already prime minister or on the verge of taking over.

He spoke glowingly of Tony Blair's record, although almost always in the past tense.

But he also suggested too much had been left undone over the past eight years and, with his focus clearly on the party traditionalists, that Labour needed to get back to some of its core values.

"After eight years - when we are doing more than any government to widen opportunity, doing more to invest in our communities - we know also that we are as yet today a Britain of still too little opportunity, a Britain of still too little responsibility, a Britain of still too little community," he declared.

Moral compass

Then, after pledging a year-long, pre-leadership "listening and learning" tour of the country, he went on to a highly personal section of his address designed to show the party where he comes from and how it informs his vision.

"Why are we in politics. Why am I in politics. I will never forget what I was brought up to believe.

"I learned from my parents not just to do my best and to work hard but to treat everyone equally, to respect others, to tell the truth, to take responsibility," he added.

He spoke of his parents' beliefs, which provided his moral compass, that "for what we received we had a duty to put something back - one moral community of fairness for all, responsibilities accepted by all".


And he was withering in his rejection of the Tory past which he characterised as the "grab what you can glorification of everyone for himself, no such thing as society, which told people to ask only what they could get for themselves".

This was all aimed straight at the delegates' Labour hearts and contained the sort of sentiments they often believed came with difficulty from Tony Blair's lips.

But it was all given a hard edge with more talk of continuing the Blairite reforms and creating the home-owning, share-owning democracy once talked of by Margaret Thatcher.

So the delegates were left in little doubt that a Brown government would continue down the New Labour path which has so often dismayed them when taken by Tony Blair.

But this time, they are being asked to accept it will be by a man who is steeped in the party's traditional values, even morals, to a degree many here believe the prime minister is not.

Centre ground

Of course they loved it, and for many in the conference centre, there was plenty in the speech to reassure them that prime minister Gordon Brown will be a different beast to prime minister Blair - that he will be more one of them.

But there was also detail in his speech - particularly the echoes of Thatcher, the talk of dominating the centre ground and the constant references to reform - that will continue to cause some traditionalists concern.

Over the next 12 months, Mr Brown will undoubtedly be doing as much to reassure and win over those doubters as he will be listening to their concerns.

And the question now is how he will return to this conference in 12 months time.

Will he already be their leader and Britain's prime minister or, more likely, will he still be waiting.

And if it is the latter, for just how much longer will he and the party be expecting to wait for that transition of power.

A lot of water, particularly choppy economic water, may have passed under the bridge by then.

But for today there was little doubt delegates were witnessing precisely what they expected - a speech by the man they fully expect to take their party towards the next general election and, they hope, an historic fourth victory.

Gordon Brown pays tribute to Labour supporters and Tony Blair



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