Much of ‘Fleet Street’ has decided that Gordon Brown’s speech was a success. This is the same ‘Fleet Street’ that always welcomed Chancellor Brown’s budgets without reading the small print. The screen grab on the right comes from the homepage of today’s Guardian. Here are some other over-reactions…
The Sun: "This speech won Mr Brown precious breathing space. But his exhausted face revealed the strain this battle for survival is inflicting. His ‘great clunking fist’ still managed to land a blow on David Cameron. Mr Brown portrayed the Tory leader as a carpet-bagger selling snake oil and patent cure-alls. Mr Cameron must respond next week by filling the gaping holes in Tory policy — on Europe, taxes, spending and the NHS. Otherwise Mr Brown’s charge will stick."
Daily Mail: "Well, he did it. On Monday, the Mail said Gordon Brown had to make the speech of his life if he was to silence Labour’s rebels and revive battered confidence in his leadership. Yesterday, he delivered it. Gone was the defensive, beleaguered Mr Brown of the spring and summer, worn to exhaustion by the cares of office and the treachery of his colleagues. In his place stood a defiant Prime Minister, infused with a new energy and passion, hungry to carry on in the job and meet any challenges it might throw at him."
Peter Oborne: "Gordon Brown rose politically from the dead. Of course, it is still not possible to be certain of his long-term – or even medium-term – survival. But one thing can be said with total certainty. Gordon Brown remains the biggest man in the Labour Party, and still the most potent force on our national stage. The truth is that none of his mooted leadership successors – not Jack Straw, not Alan Johnson, not Harriet Harman – could make a speech half as good."
What a load of rubbish. It’s very rare for a speech to change anything in politics and yesterday’s speech was far from exceptional (the attempt at an Al Gore kiss being the most notable feature of it). We make a prediction: Labour’s average poll rating will be broadly the same a fortnight after the party conference season as it was a fortnight before. Leadership speculation will continue. UKplc will remain at the bottom of the G7 league table.
The Westminster village loves speeches and slogans and reshuffles but the most stubborn fact in British politics is the steep decline in household disposable income. Brown did nothing to address that yesterday and that is why he and Labour remain headed for electoral doom.