Brown on trial for his political life

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown will be on trial for his political life today - but it may be that the best he can hope for is a temporary reprieve.

He will take to the stage this afternoon at Labour's Manchester conference to give his leader's speech conscious that all ears will be on how bold his vision for the future can be and all eyes on whether he looks like a man already condemned.

Cabinet colleagues have rallied round, declaring Mr Brown the best man for the job.

But continued dismal opinion poll ratings have done little to quell background speculation as to just how long he can continue at No 10.

The Prime Minister, not so far famed for inspirational oratory, has been inundated with advice on both the style and substance of his crucial address.

Should he stand behind a podium or stride around the stage? Should he be upbeat about the future or linger more on how low the world's economies have been brought by global financial crises?

Months of preparation go into any political leader's annual speech to his party faithful but this year events have moved so quickly in the past three weeks that draft after draft will have been ripped up simply in response to the latest headlines.

This year, more than ever, the tone of Mr Brown's remarks and the manner in which he delivers them may be more important than whatever policy proposals pepper his speech. Of course political opponents will dismiss those as "gimmicks" but supporters too might be anxious as to how they can be achieved amid the global squeeze.

Besides, the Prime Minister's internal critics and those in the country at large, have never identified a lack of policy announcements as at the heart of his apparent dislocation with sections of his party and the public.

Instead, they say, he has not found a distinctive voice, nor a distinctive story to tell that could be the next chapter in New Labour history after 11 long years in power.

It is rare for one speech to transform a politician's fortunes - although ironically such was the case with the previously unrated David Cameron's pitch for the Conservative leadership.

But a bravura performance from Mr Brown this afternoon could at least buy him time to transform both his and his party's fortunes.