Brown draws battle lines for election fight with Cameron

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown has mapped out the battle lines between him and David Cameron for the next general election if he becomes prime minister.

In the second of a series of speeches ranging well beyond his Treasury brief, Mr Brown moved to head off Tory claims that he is a "big brother" politician who opposes Blairite reforms and believes the State alone can solve Britain's problems.

He said the Government had not been "New Labour enough" about Tony Blair's mantra that people have responsibilities as well as rights. He also laid claim to Mr Cameron's "big idea" - social responsibility - and insisted he had been talking about it since 1992.

The role of the State is likely to emerge as a key battleground at the next election. Divisions between the two main parties have narrowed as a result of Mr Cameron's decision to fight Labour on the political centre ground.

In the Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture in Glasgow, Mr Brown said Labour must remember that "the State is not master, but serves the people".

He called for a partnership between the Government and the people but argued that on key issues such as helping poor families the State could not stand aside and leave provision to voluntary groups and charities, suggesting this was the Tories' vision.

He said children's centres and the Sure Start scheme could not have happened without the initial investment and co-ordinating role of local and national government.

He said: "The challenges we face cannot be successfully met either by government just pulling old levers; or in a kneejerk reaction abandoning our great modern national institutions, leaving individuals and communities unaided to meet the challenges, using charities as some cut-price alternative to government, instead of partners in a shared enterprise.

"A new individualism of rising aspirations" could not be met just by investment in public services, he said, but by "putting people in the driving seat and tailoring the service to their needs but also recognising as parents or patients or as citizens we must take some responsibility for meeting our needs".

The Chancellor, who may bring in a written constitution if he succeeds Mr Blair, said there was a "necessary and urgent" need for a 21st-century constitutional settlement based on "the responsible citizen, the empowered community and enabling government". Mr Brown admitted: "We have not done enough to promote a philosophy which emphasises rights and responsibilities together.

"I do not think that in government, New Labour has yet been New Labour enough in promoting a philosophy which emphasises these opportunities and duties together."

He said that under-achievement by boys at school must be tackled to prevent the emergence of a "wasted generation".

And he conceded that the gender gap which opened up 20 years ago remained "stubbornly large", with 61 per cent of girls getting five good GCSEs in England compared to 51 per cent of boys.

Mr Brown and Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, have asked Christine Gilbert, the Chief Inspector of Schools, to investigate the problem, and to see whether more personalised activity and computer-based learning is needed to prevent boys becoming bored and falling behind in class.

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