Tuesday 29 September 2009

Message in a bottle

Gordon Brown delivered his leader's speech to the faithful today.
Despite some of the media saying it would be a make or break speech it clearly was never going to be. Knowing that it is far too late to change leaders, Gordon was only really planning to do his usual thing. A plodding speech with tractor stats galore, promises without details, claims which are unsubstantiated, chorus of achievement, talk about what the opposition would do and a few jack-in-the-box policies to try and trip up the Tories. Plus a few sly 'Mandies' aimed at winning back the core and pulling back voters lost to the Lib Dems.

However, technically, as a speech, despite some lukewarm reception from the conference I thought it was his best. We know that Obama could read a tax return and engage more people than Brown will ever manage but compared to Nick Clegg's speech last week it was sparkling . The whips had learnt the lessons of the half empty hall from Monday and ensured that it was packed for the leaders speech.

Sarah Brown went down very well. I don't know why. I think it makes him look like a little boy being taken to primary school for the first time, who won't let go of mummy's hand. As a PR device its obvious why she is used.
'Gordon is messy, Gordon is a good husband. Gordon is kind to children and furry animals'
Or - 'Gordon is normal. No really , he is.' I can't imagine Samantha Cameron even having to say
"Dave gets a few beers in at the weekend. Dave likes watching DIY SOS ."
To me it just reinforces Gordon's strangeness and its so obvious I can't believe it works, but it seemed to work in Brighton.

After the tearful intro it was a workmanlike start - a bit clunky, but he managed the right pitch and delivery of the tractor stats of Labour achievement. Its his strong point, and his speechwriters were wise to use this device. Basically its just reading out a selection of phrases and soundbites, but Gordon has always managed that well. He got the pacing, and the volume right, so that once the crowd were applauding, he managed to make them cheer and clap louder, as he lengthened the list. Good TV that. I thought better than Mandleson who went a bit squeaky with his crescendos.

Then came the detail.
Or lack of detail, a normal Gordon device.
Here the speech fell back into one of his old budget statements. A litany of vague achievements, aspirations, fantasy promises and traps. Plenty for the comrades to agree with but shockingly short of detail.
More bank regulation - end to bonus culture - more free childcare - the ability to recall bad MPs -Improved health care for the elderly - Schools, hospitals,kidney machines as Jim Hacker used to say. And, just as in his chancellor days, a lot of it doesn't add up.

The health care at home for the elderly seemed to have unraveled by the 6pm news with a price tag of 1.5 billion more pounds needed or only half as many people as claimed being eligible.
No discussion of cuts of any sort except I.D. cards and that it is such a white elephant its a miracle he didn't dump it at last years speech.

The speech felt like an opposition speech. It would not have been out of place in 1997.
Tough on crime - anti social behaviour,- educasion/ejudkain/ edukasion- more money for schools, - save the NHS- more spending on health care, a people's Postbank at the post offices, reform of the Lords, minimum wage.. What has he been doing for the last 12 years? Has all the parliamentary time been spent on hunting with dogs, stopping smoking in pubs and fighting foreign wars? All these things were promised long ago. Now , that he is about to lose power, its all promised again.

Three things did stand out. The PR kite flyer, dormitories for teenage mothers and the law about debt.

The Proportional Representation 'lite' is a tempter for Nick Clegg. I doubt it will work. Paddy Ashdown fell for it and was then shown the door when the power sharing was no longer needed. Now Gordon tries to tempt Lib Dem voters back to Labour with the promise they desire. Thinking about a hung parliament is a good, if unlikely to succeed, tactic. But you play the hand you have and at least its going to spark some debate, especially on the yellow blogs.
The teenage mother thing is just so odd. Its a right wing Tory favourite and gives Dave the opportunity to embrace something that he would have been as likely to go near as a strange device by the roadside in Afghanistan. He can now say , we'll look at it and claim some needed tough on benefits brownie points from the blue rinse.

The trap though, was the piece barely even being reported. Legislation to enshrine in law that the budget defecit must be halved within 4 years. The Tories might not like being committed to paying down debt at a rate that means huge, huge tax rises and Cleggian 'savage' cuts to public services. Anymore poison for this chalice?

Overall I think those that wanted to believe will be able to believe and those that didn't believe won't be swayed. A good effort from the PM even though it wasn't outstanding.
But then the aim was only ever to put some fight back into the troops and wrong foot the Tories. Only Cameron/Osborne have a good record in wrong footing Team Brown at conference time. Maybe he has only succeeded in giving George a few extra targets to shoot at next week.


Houdini said...

It won't make any difference because it comes BEFORE the Tory conference, where the Tory bounce, and myriad policy announcements they have accused of not having, will be announced. The Tories have waited for Brown and Labour to set out their stall because they have the habit of pinching policy...but that won't work now with only six or so months to go before the election. Brown may have given a decent speech, by his standards, but it is too late by far.

Not to mention of course that the SNP have come on leaps and bounds in Scotland, which will have serious consequences for Labour come election time...shit they beat Labour in England in 2005!

Lib Dems and SNP, and to a lesser degree Plaid Cymru, will have a huge effect on Labour and allow the Tories more than just a comfortable win. For the first time, ever, I can see Labour as the third party of Government...now there is a delicious thought, Clegg facing Cameron across the floor of the HoC.

Old BE said...

I don't "get" Labour's deficit promise. In four years time there will still be a 7% deficit! We will be bust long before that.

Bill Quango MP said...

Houdini: "Brown may have given a decent speech, by his standards, but it is too late by far."

I agree. And even if Cameron doesn't perform, it really won't matter. No talk about a leader's debate was there?

BE: Yes. There is the trap. A stick for the opposition to beat up the government with.
Useful, if you think you are going to be the opposition.

Steven_L said...

What's there not to 'get' BE? We borrow and print money now, during the recession and collapse in tax revenues, so that we can keep the mushrooming benefits classes living in the lifestyle they have become acustomed to under Labour.

The poorer we get as the currency collapses and the wealthy jump ship the more equal we all become. Then the tofu-muncher barrister twats that form the Labour party finally realise their dream of lording it over us for ever and ever.

Electro-Kevin said...

What an excellent analysis.
Bravo !

Houdini said...

I don't "get" Labour's deficit promise. In four years time there will still be a 7% deficit! We will be bust long before that.

And of course it is a new law that demands a deficit is cut, which is indeed a tool to bash the Government with once they are the opposition. They still haven't got it have they? The voters and public are not the same today as they were in 1997, particularly not now we have blogs and in-depth analysis at the touch of a mouse. Voters see through this for what it is; a shabby and vindictive piece of legislation...when they have serious other matters to address. This will come back to haunt them, hopefully.

Then the final nail in Labours coffin; the Sun has openly say they back the Tories. Not as significant as it was, but still significant, and soon, very soon, all those dirty little secrets of Labours Government for thirteen years will be given to the Sun for the masses to see in plain words...now that is massively significant and a literal get out of jail free card for ten years at least...the card Labour used right up until...oh, about 9.30 am this morning.

Old BE said...

My point about the deficit is that the deficit needs to be reduced far more quickly than Darling says he would.

hatfield girl said...

What a terrific summary. And much of what is on offer apart from it being 12 years too late, only applies to England. 46 Labour MPs from Scotland voting on all this health and education and childcare stuff when it doesn't apply to their constituents.

James Higham said...

Sarah Brown went down very well. I don't know why.

I'm sure that's not what you really wanted to say, Bill.