Monday, 24 September 2007

Gordon's solid conference debut as leader

It was a good speech, not a great one. There was none of the rhetorical flourish that characterised Tony Blair at his best, and little of the oratorical exuberence that Neil Kinnock brought to eighties speeches. But then he didn't need to do either. Gordon Brown had one of the least restive conference audiences in years. There were no rival briefings, and the unions and left were subdued. So instead we got a bit more of the vision than we have become used to in Gordon's speeches on the Budget or as Chancellor at conference. Though, in education, there was much more on children and literacy and much less on specialist schools and Academies, yet the policy is largely unchanged; and there was a rhetorical return to student grants in higher education, a conference pleaser not a serious change of direction on tuition fees. Nevertheless, despite the difference of emphasis, this was a speech that emphasised continuity as much as it spoke change. Whether it was a pre-election speech is another matter: it is unlikely to set the nation's pulse racing, but it should solidify the strong support built by solid summer leadership.

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