Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 17:31 UK
No time for a novice, says Brown



By Reeta Chakrabarti
BBC News political correspondent

Browns kiss
The Browns appeared together before and after the speech

Other than soon-to-be parents there is nothing quite so expectant as a party conference waiting to hear from its leader.

If every delegate was not full of warm excitement while queuing to get in, they certainly were once in the hall.

Upbeat pop classics boomed from the loudspeakers; a film of Labour's achievements flashed on the big screen.

A row of women behind me started clapping in time to the music, raucous as a hen party.

Surprise warm-up

In the front row two of Labour's elder statesmen, Lord Kinnock and John Prescott, beamed and waved. Carnival had come to Manchester.

Things could get no better. But the surprise appearance of Sarah Brown as warm-up act sent the audience into a paroxysm of happiness.

I am all in favour of apprenticeships, but let me tell you this is no time for a novice
Gordon Brown

They rose as one and would not sit down as she stood bashfully on the stage, looking both delighted and terrified at the same time.

The hen party whooped - another uplifting film was shown - and all that was missing was dancing in the aisles. No-one would guess that this was a party 20 points behind in the polls.

It was a masterful paving the way for the big speech. As Sarah introduced "my husband, the leader of the Labour party, your prime minister" she almost forgot to say "Gordon Brown".

But it mattered not, as the man himself did as near a shimmy onto the stage as he can muster, and gave his wife a full kiss on the lips. I can't believe my luck - he seemed to be saying - what a wife! What a party!

The atmosphere of mutual love-in continued for several minutes. Gordon Brown's "I'm a serious man for serious times" went down a storm.

And throughout he pushed all the right buttons - personal about how the NHS had saved his sight - political with some crowd-pleasing Tory-bashing.

'Pro-market'

Serious about the economy - and substantial when talking about the Labour agenda.

Most ministers got a mention - including one D Miliband, although he was right at the end.

There was a small stumble over the trailed apology on the 10p tax affair - sorry clearly seems to be the hardest word - and more muted applause for his City-calming "we are a pro-market party."

While he talked genuinely about his beliefs,Mr Brown will never be good at delivering a cheesy line - declaring that at all the polls and criticism were worth it if he made life better for just one child felt, well, unlikely.

But the end verdict was resoundingly positive. "The best he's done," declared a couple of people approvingly.

As the loudspeakers started to boom out a Jackie Wilson number, and Sarah joined him again onstage, the hen party started up a chant of "Gordon, Gordon" and it truly felt as if Their Love was Lifting Him Higher.

Has he done himself good? Most certainly.

Has he done enough? Who knows.


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