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Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Gordon's personal pitch
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

This was the speech Gordon Brown has been waiting to make for the best part of 13 years, and when it came it amounted to his most direct and personal appeal yet for the nation to put its trust in him.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown emphasised his personal qualities
It was the culmination of the message he has been sending out since the day of his succession - I am the change the country has been seeking, so stick with me.

And it was, in the slogan already offered by advertising gurus Saatchi and Saatchi, "not flash, just Gordon".

With election fever refusing to die down, the prime minister - and how he relished reminding the crowd this was his first conference speech in that job - did little to encourage it. He simply refused to mention it at all.

At the very same time, however, he managed to sound like a man offering himself to voters as their new leader.

It was that pitch which saw him setting out the qualities he believes he has already displayed in handling the crises that hit the government in the three months since his succession - attempted bombings, floods, foot and mouth and Northern Rock.

Not wanting

Referring to those events, he said: "Our response was calm, and measured. We simply got on with the job.

"Britain has been tested and not found wanting. This is who we are."

No one in the audience in the Bournemouth conference centre was in any doubt about what he meant - that HE had offered calm and measured leadership and simply got on with the job.

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
Mr Brown barely mentioned his predecessor
And, most significantly, within a few short weeks in Downing Street, HE had been tested and not found wanting.

There was plenty of that personal, character stuff - designed, perhaps, to emphasise just how much he was not Tony Blair - who warranted only the briefest mention - and in all the right ways.

The flash has, indeed, gone. It is just Gordon on offer to the voters who, he believes, will find his leadership style refreshing and fit for the times.

Just when he intends to give the voters the opportunity to deliver their verdict remains, however, a mystery.

New politics

He referred again to the "moral compass" given to him by his preacher father and to the fact he is a conviction politician.

There were more glimpses of his puritanical streak, linking crime and immorality and suggesting a clampdown on wayward parents and attitudes towards alcohol.

He even spoke in the most personal terms yet of the NHS doctors and nurses who had saved one of his eyes after a teenage rugby accident and allowed him to "read the words I am reading today".

He suggested, by failing to mention them, that the opposition parties were next to irrelevant.

He then attempted to make it so by further fencing off the centre ground on health, education and - most crucially perhaps - immigration, law and order and the family.

And, inevitably, there was talk of the "new politics" which saw him reaching out to "those who may have supported other parties but who like me want to defend and advance British values and our way of life".

In other words, another attempt to make the Tories irrelevant.

He even stepped onto perilous territory by quoting the Bible back at David Cameron (without mentioning him, of course).

"We all remember the biblical saying, 'suffer the little children to come unto me.' No Bible I ever read says 'bring just some of the children'," he said.

It was without doubt an unusual speech with no attempts at humour, little fire or stage craft but plenty of worthiness.

And it is just that which Gordon Brown clearly hopes will appeal in post-Blair Britain.

We will have to wait until that general election to find out whether he is right.

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