Gordon Brown staked his claim to be Labour leader and Prime Minister yesterday with a highly personal speech to the party conference in which he set out his political philosophy.
The Chancellor sought to halt a slide in his opinion poll ratings which has sparked doubts in the minds of some Labour MPs that he is the right man to take on David Cameron at the next general election. He insisted he was a team player who would include "all the talents" in his Cabinet and peppered his speech with praise for Blairite ministers.
Mr Brown won a warm rather than ecstatic standing ovation after a sober speech aimed more at the country than the party. He told how his parents were his "inspiration" and the reason he entered politics: his father, a Church of Scotland minister, whose "motivation was not theological zeal but compassion" and a mother who "taught my brothers and me that whatever talents we had, however small, we should use them".
Outlining his vision of a "good society," he went on: "Most of all my parents taught me that each of us should live by a moral compass. It was a simple faith with a fundamental optimism.
"Each and every one of us has a talent. Each of us a duty to use that talent. And each of us should have the chance to develop that talent. And my parents thought we should use whatever talent we had to help people least able to help themselves."
He admitted: "It's right that people should know where I come from and for what I stand."
Drawing a deliberate contrast with Mr Cameron, he said: "As a quite private person, what drew me into public life was not a search for fame or headlines, but a determination to make a difference. If I thought the future of politics was just about celebrity, I wouldn't be in politics.
"If being in public life becomes about image above all else then I don't believe politics would be serving the public." Pleading for his party's support, Mr Brown said: "I know where I come from, what I believe and what I can contribute. And I am confident that my experience and my values gives me the strength to take the tough decisions."
Amid fears that Mr Brown might be associated with the Blair era at a time when voters want a fresh start, he stressed how he had learnt lessons in nine years as Chancellor -and wanted the chance to address the new challenges facing the country.
While promising to keep New Labour firmly in the political centre ground, he promised "progressive" reforms to create opportunity for all and tackle what he called "the poverty of opportunity and aspiration."
"As the tasks of government change, the way we govern must change, not just new policies but a new politics too, a new politics founded on responsibilities as well as rights," he said.
That would include a "radical shift of power from the centre". He explained: "I believe we must now examine how elsewhere we can separate the decisions that in a democracy, elected politicians must make from the business of day-to-day administration." Councils, not Whitehall, should be given more power over economic regeneration and public transport. Parliament, not the Cabinet, should have the final say on going to war while leaving "scope for emergency action".
Mr Brown said governments across the world had been too slow to recognise the threat of climate change. "I don't want our children to say to us, 'You knew what needed to be done, you had the political power but you lacked the political will'." He called for a $20bn global fund to help the poorest countries combat climate change.
Addressing doubts that a Scot could win a general election, Mr Brown said: "When I'm in England some people say I talk about Britishness because I'm now embarrassed about being Scottish. Let me say I am proud to be Scottish and British."
How would Britain be different under Brown?
Public Service Reform
Blair: Believes in so-called "permanent revolution" with greater "choice, diversity and contestability" - involving greater use of private firms to deliver state-financed services.
Brown: Resents Blairite suggestions that he is "anti-reform" but did not mention the word "choice" in his speech yesterday; keen to preserve "ethos" of public service.
Blair: Sees no need to impose a limit on the amount of health care delivered by private firms so long as treatment remains free and based on need; sceptical about independent NHS board.
Brown: Sees limit to role of market in health care; believes politicians should set budget and overall strategy but leave day-to-day running of service to independent board.
Tax and Spending
Blair: Agreed to Brown plan to raise national insurance for NHS. But keen to keep lid on taxes to ensure Britain can compete in global economy and reassure Middle England.
Brown: Keen to allay voters' fears he would raise taxes before next general election; open to long-term debate on tax levels to safeguard public services.
Blair: Determined to maintain his "shoulder-to-shoulder" support for the United States and refuses to criticise George Bush in public. Still haunted by Iraq war.
Brown: Says he wants a good relationship with all world leaders, including US President. May be prepared to differ in public and acknowledge mistakes in Iraq.
Blair: Introduced devolution for Scotland and Wales but has blown hot and cold on House of Lords and electoral reform.
Brown: Might bring in written constitution in attempt to restore people's trust in politics. Would reform Lords. Changes to voting system a long-term possibility.
Let me say/promise/tell 11
Tony/Tony Blair 6
New Labour 6
Arctic Monkeys 1
Can and will 1
Can and must 1
Must and will 1
Was and is 1
Voices from the floor
Lucinda Yeadon Leeds/GMB
"It was a sound speech, spelling out a lot of his positive policies. One of the good things about Gordon Brown is that he doesn't believe in 'personality politics' like Cameron. But it's important that we have a contest and not a coronation. We are a democratic party and it's important that the members can vote on the leadership."
Howard Dawber Labour Party member from Camden
"This sounded very much like the first speech of a party leader rather than the last speech of a chancellor. He talked about his background much more than we have come to expect. If you look at Tony Blair and Gordon Brown the Labour Party is incredibly lucky to have such successful figures. David Cameron could not have made a speech like that."
Kumar Jacob Lewisham East/Christian Socialist Movement
"The thing Gordon Brown did well was make the connection between the values of the party and the values of Britain. Voters will recognise that. After this, I will absolutely support him. He is by far the best candidate. I don't think Mr Blair should be rushed though - we should leave it up to him to decide his exit."
Malcolm Wood Nottingham Councillor
"That was a superb speech, articulating the concerns we grassroots members have. I am usually a fan of the democratic process, but Gordon is now so head and shoulders above the others that it almost kills any contest."
Ali Syed Glasgow
"Gordon Brown has a completely different style from Tony Blair and what we got was Gordon. He has come up from the grass roots and I think people are ready for a different style. A change is always good. We have had 10 years of Tony Blair and that should be enough."
Peta Vaught Hounslow
"Mr Brown understands that he needs to be a force of cultural change and support for the most vulnerable in society. I have never been a fan of Tony Blair and I don't really believe in the cult of the individual. But Mr Brown certainly appeared to have the support of the majority."Reuse content