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Yesterday’s speech on national security wasn’t just "a leadership bid" by Gordon Brown, it was a flanking manoeuvre against the Conservatives.

He expressed his support for ID cards, extending the maximum time that terrorist suspects can be detained to 90 days, and stronger cultural integration. He also called on America and Europe to unite on a great fight against al-Qaeda and outlined ways that the Treasury can help in the fight against terrorism.

It’s not surprising that John Reid, who was said to have had discussed the speech’s content with Brown, is the potential Labour leader  most feared by Conservatives – his tough-man image reassures people at an uncertain time. This speech was a clear pitch for that same safe-pair-of-hands image that so appeals to The Sun and its readers, either because Reid is now under Brown’s wing or to neutralise Reid’s threat to the leadership.

The Conservative Party used to be seen as reliably hard-headed in its approach to terrorists and criminals by putting security before liberty, but the continuing emphasis of presenting a soft, cuddly image presents it with a conundrum. How can David Cameron start talking seriously about national security and establishing a Prime Ministerial air whilst still presenting himself as a "liberal Conservative"?

Deputy Editor

46 comments for: Brown challenges soft-toned Tories with a hard issue

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