Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Labour Conference Special (5)

You will be pleased to know that today has, so far, not been a bad hair day.

So... he did it. It was a phenomenal speech, had everyone spellbound. Definitely the best leader's speech I've seen since I started coming to Conference many moons ago, and up there with Mandela and Clinton guest appearances. He was introduced by Sarah, who was great, and started off by saying "I'm not going to try to be something I'm not. And if people say I'm too serious, quite honestly there's a lot to be serious about - I'm serious about doing a serious job for all the people of this country". And he handled the 10p tax issue in the way he should have done from the start: "And where I've made mistakes I'll put my hand up and try to put them right. So what happened with the 10p stung me because it really hurt that suddenly people felt I wasn't on the side of people on middle and modest incomes - because on the side of hard-working families is the only place I've ever wanted to be. And from now on it's the only place I will ever be." Then a bit of a debate on the turmoil in the markets and what action could be taken to curb city speculation, and the role of government in not allowing 'unbridled free market forces' to run riot. "And I say to our opponents: those who don't believe in the potential of government shouldn't be trusted to form one." Laid into George Osborne's recent comments too, that "it's not a problem caused by the financial markets" and "it's a function of financial markets that people make loads of money out of the misery of others".

As for the substance, there were some concrete policy proposals - and even spending commitments! The child poverty pledge probably passed some people by: basically he has given the campaign groups in the End Child Poverty coalition what they've been asking for. We're going to introduce legislation to enshrine in law Labour's pledge to end child poverty. Which means that if the Government doesn't do what's necessary to meet the commitment to abolish child poverty by 2020, they can be challenged in the High Court. And if the Tories manage to get into Government, they will either face the same legal challenge (highly likely given that for them abolishing child poverty is only 'an aspiration' not a firm pledge) or they'd have to introduce legislation repealing the laws introduced by Labour. I phoned Save the Children as soon as I got out of the Conference Hall, and they're delighted.

Biggest ovation - apart from the one at the end - came when Gordon said, "We did fix the roof when the sun was shining" - a riposte to claims that we didn't do anything during the good economic times. We did.

And yes, it may have been just a little bit naughty to say "I'm all in favour of apprenticeships, but now is no time for a novice" - but he's right!

No comments: