Monday, September 24, 2007

The helping hand, not the clunking fist

That clunking fist reappeared today in a different guise, as Gordon's speech was preceded by a party video focussing on him shaking hands with a backing track of 'Put Your Hands On.'

The little sign on the front of the podium and screens throughout the centre displayed the words 'Strength to change Britain' and three of those words cropped up regularly, with Britain appearing repeatedly throughout the speech, as Gordon worked to stress that he's not a Scottish PM, but a British PM. He entered the hall to rapturous applause, after the MPs finally stopped behaving like a class of primary kids and sat down. Sitting in the hall, I had a view of what must have hit Gordon as he walked into the room through one of the foyer entrances. I don't know what effect it had on him, but it scared me - the sheer volume of the applause and the cheers has to be heard to be believed.

The whole speech was filled with personal insights into his upbringing and the principles that gave him. Without mentioning Cameron once, Brown set himself and our party apart from the Tories and set out a clear direction for the next few years - the next decade, if he is to be believed.

Stories are always powerful tools in a speech and he used them liberally - talking about vets and farmers, firefighters and bomb disposal officers and a certain baggage handler from Glasgow and his own personal war on terror. John Smeaton was in the hall and received a standing ovation from the assembled masses.

The speech was strong on allowing talent to flourish and helping those who need it. We can't afford to let people slip through the net because of poverty, so this aspirational and inspirational speech promised some hard help.

One to one tuition for 300,000 primary pupils in maths and English, small group tuition for 600,000 secondary pupils and personal tutors, a guarantee of education from 3-18 - from nursery through to A Levels or skills training. In a move guaranteed to annoy Cameron, Gordon has promised national youth community service, stealing a policy idea outright. More students than ever will receive grants and for the poorest in society, there is a guarantee of funding for education until they are 21.

His personal crusade to abolish child poverty goes on - 90% of mothers now take up the extended maternity leave, but it will now run to 9 months, with a plan to take it to 12 months paid leave. With money for housing, news of ten new 'eco towns' rather than the planned five and continued work to maintain the economy, there's much detail to chew over here.

Crime wasn't left out - the police will be allowed new stop and search powers in areas of high gun crime and will be provided with 10,000 hand held computers to reduce time spent filling out paperwork in the station. £670 million will be targetted on youth centres and the young people themselves will get a say in how it is spent.

In terms of foreign policy, he wants to remain close to the US and stay pro-European with work to do on Darfur. At this point, he paused to acknowledge the debts that we owe to Tony Blair and to Neil Kinnock - the latter in the audience.

Then he turned to the NHS and promised a future accessible to all and personal to you - a big challenge to achieve that. Wards will be deep cleaned, more matrons appointed and cleaning contractors will be given the choice of keeping the wards clean to a high standard or losing their contracts. Breast cancer treatment will be fast-tracked and health checks will be available to more.

His hour on the stage ended with another standing ovation and I can tell you that the delegates seemed impressed by what he had to say.

1 comment:

Freddie said...

One wonders who's been running the country for the last 10 years ...

The matrons promise is dragged out and dusted off every few years and the GP access crisis has arisen only because of the new contracts you lot gave them.