Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The lost moral compass restored

Gordon Brown has always been a man with a huge sense of Labour history. And while his speech to the party's conference today was certainly focused on the present and future, it was also deeply rooted in the history of the party.

Harold Wilson used to say the Labour Party was a moral crusade or it was nothing. During the Tony Blair years, it was pretty clear that it had become nothing. Yet in one passage of today's speech, Mr Brown restored the moral purpose that has been missing from the party for so long.

"And why do we always strive for fairness? Not because it makes good soundbites. Not because it gives good photo opportunities. Not because it makes for good PR. No. We do it because fairness is in our DNA. It's who we are - and what we're for. It's why Labour exists. It's our first instinct, the soul of our party. It's why when things get tough, we get tougher."

Although the pundits will doubtless focus on his clever two-in-one put-down of the two Davids - "This is no time for a novice" - this, for me, was the key message of the speech, a reminder to the country that this party is about more than simply a desire to stay in power for as long as possible.

The message was underlined, near the very end of the speech, by Mr Brown's use of the phrase "United we are a great movement."

The words "This Great Movement Of Ours" or "TGMOO" used to be practically obligatory in Labour leader's speeches in the pre-Blair days, but references to Labour as a "movement" went dramatically out of fashion during the NuLab era, presumably because, like "moral crusade," the word implies some higher purpose. The idealists among us will be pleased to see it back again.

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Vicarious Phil said...

Oh dear. Labour are going to lose the next election. They have to decide fast whether leaving Gordon Brown in charge helps or hinders. If Brown loses and takes the rap, maybe Labour can more quickly draw a line under New Labour and start to rebuild. (The Tories took ages to get over the way way they got rid of thatcher. They paid dearly.) Perhaps if brown continues in charge, then civil war will rage and Labour will be damaged long term. Alternatively, Labour removes Gordon Brown and has an internal contest. A new younger, English leader emerges and revitalises the party for the fight ahead, goes to the country quickly and if they're lucky we get a hung Parliament.

I can't think of anyone to take over at the minute though. Johnson maybe? Cruddas, post election perhaps.

Anonymous said...

If the roof was fixed when the sun was shineing why are so many people drowning now?

Ted Foan said...

It always comes down to idealism or pragmatism in the end, Paul.

Harold Wilson declared himself to be a pragmatist. Gordon Brown says he will do "whatever it takes".

Labour are so obsessed with winning a fourth term they - especially the Brown acolytes - will do anything they can to 'toxify' the Conservatives in the eyes of the electorate. Witness Brown's deliberate misquote of George Osborne's comment on Newsnight last week. Or the host of other re-announcements and re-re-announcements of rather small measures (virtually all cancer drugs are prescribed by hospitals and therefore don't cost the patient anything, 80% of patients do not pay for prescriptions from their GP anyway and the provision of 'nursery education' for all 2 year-olds will not come into full effect for 10 years.

I could go on but all the details of what Brown said will be crawled over in minute detail over the coming days and weeks and we will see if he is really an idealist or, more likely, a pragmatist. (Press the right buttons and the people will vote us back for four more years?)

And his relatively brief reference to ensuring that the country's energy supplies will remain secure belied the woeful lack of attention that his government has paid to this major issue over the last 11 years.

I don't know about you but this did not seem like a "moral crusade" to me. It sounded like a man who is desperate to survive as the leader of his party for the next few months, not a man who will lead us all to the sunlight uplands.

Unknown said...

Snag is, the promises of "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", "No more boom and bust", "whiter than white" et al still ring in the ears of many, and these sentiments were all taken at face value as well.

"Fairness" is another (lovely) soundbite, which will no doubt be dragged up by interviewers in weeks and months to come, and some more fudged figures will be produced to attempt to prove that they have done what they promised.

Sorry, by my cynicism runs deeper than ever at the moment.


Unknown said...

Yes, when the going gets tough it is always good to have a few SLOGANS to fall back on

Anonymous said...

The best reason for voting socialist at the next GE has nothing to do with 'fairness'. It is the same as the strongest reason for voting tory in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

Did you enjoy TB as the messiah? Are you looking forward to DC having unfettered power?

Moderate performers claiming a huge mandate, mostly based on the weaknesses of the other side.

Anonymous said...

It was a great speech.
The tofies are angry so that tells a few tails.

Ted Foan said...

24 September, 2008 17:09
Dirty Euro said...
"It was a great speech.
The tofies are angry so that tells a few tails."

Tofies? Tails? That tells a few tales. Or perhaps it just tells us that Dirty European Socialist (that doyenne of the blogging world) is a victim of the appalling drop in the standard of education that we have endured under this Labour government.