Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 18:11 UK

Reassuring Darling is short of detail

By Jo Coburn
BBC News Political Correspondent, Manchester

Chancellor Alistair Darling
The speech felt long on reassuring rhetoric but short on fresh policy ideas

Alistair Darling was vilified in parts of the press over the summer for predicting that Britain was facing its worst economic crisis in 60 years.

Ironically, he has to some extent been proved right.

But this was certainly not the time to be smug.

On Monday he came to the conference stage to reassure and explain to his audience that despite the turbulent times Britain could weather the storm.

Before his speech union leaders were cheered by delegates when they repeated their calls for a windfall tax on the energy companies to help struggling families.

Derek Simpson, the joint general secretary of Unite, said it was time for the government to "tax the bonus system out of existence".

It went down a storm in the hall. The left wing of the Labour party is shouting its agenda at the top of its voice.

Would they get any joy from Alistair Darling?

The Chancellor started by praising Gordon Brown as a man with experience and judgement, who would guide the country into calmer waters.

He promised new laws for the banking industry and new measures to stop any future financial earthquakes.

He referred to new global regulations being championed by the prime minister.

Financial sums

But the speech was long on rhetoric and short on detail.

There was no indication of how a new system of regulation would work, or how the government could change the big bonus culture of the City.

Alistair Darling admitted that "we are on a difficult road and there will I am afraid be bumps along the way".

It all sounded soothing enough but somehow you were left with the impression that the chancellor hadn't really said very much in terms of substance.

An indication of that was demonstrated by very little response in the markets.

The real answers to the big questions are more likely to come in the pre-budget report in November.

Alistair Darling will have to put numbers next to the amount the government will have to borrow to support the economy and families over the coming months.

He has ruled out raising income tax but there could be rises further down the line.

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