Sunday, June 24, 2007

Brown hits the right note

This afternoon's acceptance speech by Gordon Brown was no mere formality, but a significant pointer to the way he intends to govern Britain. "Wherever we find injustice...there must we be" was not a bad opening mission statement for a left-of-centre premier.

For me, three things stood out in the speech. First, the acknowledgement that the need for more affordable housing has risen to near the top of the political agenda and the announcement that the Housing Minister will in future attend Cabinet. I am going to take a punt and predict that this post will go to the man who helped put the issue on the agenda, Jon Cruddas.

Second, the new Prime Minister's pledge that the NHS will be his "immediate" priority. This is a recognition of the state of crisis affecting some parts of the service and the fact that Labour has not necessarily reaped the political dividends here for all its huge investment in health. It does not bode well for the current Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt.

Thirdly, Mr Brown's call for a "new constitutional settlement." I always believed that reviving the stalled constitutional reform agenda would be a key element of any Brown premiership and I expect this to address, among other things, reform of Parliament, local government, and the voting system, with Jack Straw in overall charge.

A last word about Tony Blair, whose short contribution was also significant. He said that in successfuly staging a stable and orderly transition, Labour had once again proved itself a mature party of government.

How very true that is. Labour has avoided the bloodletting and recrimination that accompanied the fall of Margaret Thatcher, and against the backdrop of the complexity of the Blair-Brown relationship, and all the inevitable tensions that accompany the exercise of great power, that is a very considerable achievement indeed.

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