Margaret Thatcher quoted St Francis of Assisi and promised "where there is discord, may we bring harmony," before going on to run a government that left the country bitterly divided between those who caught the 1980s zeitgeist and got rich on privatisation and financial deregulation, and those, like the Durham miners and the Sheffield steelworkers, whose jobs were deemed surplus to requirements in the modern service economy.
John Major promised a "classless society" and "a nation at ease with itself," noble aspirations maybe but well beyond his power to deliver, eventually leaving six and a half years later with the country in a state of deep ennui and as class-ridden as ever.
Tony Blair said "we were elected as New Labour, we will govern as New Labour," before proceding to govern for ten years like an Old Tory, defining his premiership in opposition to the views of his own party to the extent that, though it might have been new, it ceased to be Labour in any meaningful sense.
Today, Gordon Brown simply said he would "try his utmost," and get on with the work of bringing about change. No, it's not the kind of political leadership we're used to in this country. But after the disingenuity, false hopes and vacuousness that has gone before, it's the kind we desperately need.