Gordon’s speech – Danny Alexander responds (and so do I)

by Stephen Tall on September 29, 2009

Gordon Brown delivered his speech to the Labour Party’s conference in Brighton today – you can read it in full here, or watch it here.

For the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg’s chief-of-staff Danny Alexander has issued the following response:

Gordon Brown’s speech showed just how tired and bereft of new thinking the Labour Party is. His new announcements were a hotchpotch of the ineffective and the ill-thought through, rehashed press releases, copied ideas and humiliating U-turns.

“The fact is Gordon Brown has presided over a huge and widening gap between the richest and the poorest, he has failed a generation of young people, overseen the collapse of the banking system and the disgrace of our political system.

“Britain needs a fresh start. The real choice is now between the real change offered by the Liberal Democrats and the fake change offered by the Conservatives.”

Which, with all due respect to Danny, reads like a statement which could have been written (and probably was) before Mr Brown rose to his feet to speak.

My insta-pundit reaction – based on reading rather than watching the speech – is:

1) Overall, I thought it was one of Mr Brown’s better efforts. It was a very grounded speech, which seemed to respond (however misguidedly etc) to the everyday concerns of voters – from anti-social criminal behaviour to single parents to cancer care. He managed to convey a sense of vision, and successfully portrayed the next election as a big choice.

2) What was shockingly poor was his brief, casually bland reference to Afghanistan. I know there some raised eyebrows at last week’s Lib Dem conference when Nick Clegg opened by talking about our military engagement there – but he was absolutely right that it is the single most urgent issue facing the UK at this time. The Prime Minister spared the conflict just five lines of cliched rhetoric: shameful.

3) The lack of reference to the financial challenges that lie ahead (as opposed to all those in the past year Gordon says he’s single-handedly solved himself) was, I think, a mistake. The Prime Minister tried to portray Labour as the party of “prosperity and hope” – which is fine, and doubtless effective in the conference hall. But people know there are tought times ahead. The blinkered pretence that the Government can carry on spending and all will be well is seductive but wrong-headed.