Gordon Brown conference address – no election date
Gordon Brown has addressed the Labour party conference for the first time as Prime Minister.
While not giving any indication about the date of the next general election, his speech clearly puts the government and the party on an election footing.
“Conference, I am honoured and humbled by the trust you have given me,” he told a packed hall in Bournemouth.
“I have been in this job for three months, and when I meet people … they say to me ‘what’s it like then? Do you like the job?’
“And I say ‘the hours are long but at least you can walk to work.’ And if people ask me if I would recommend this job to anyone else I say ‘not yet!'”
The Prime Minister made strong statements on support for Britain’s membership of the EU and taking the lead on climate change.
“Human rights are universal and no injustice can last forever,” he told cheering Labour activists.
Mr Brown spoke about the problem of bullying in schools and promised new powers for teachers, pledged that drugs will never be decriminalised and warned retailers who sell alcohol to under-18s that they would lose their licences.
He also pledged to review the 24 hour drinking laws introduced by his predecessor.
Education was the core theme of the speech.
In an attempt to dominate the centre ground, the Prime Minister spoke of the “rising aspirations of the British people” and appealed to people who may have supported for other parties in the past to keep faith with him.
“I want a Britain where what counts is not where you come from and who you know, but what you aspire to.
“Past generations unlocked just some of the talents of some of the people, we must unlock all of the talents of all,” he told delegates.
He promised free education from the age of three to eighteen, maternity leave from women of nine months guaranteed and, with more students with grants than at any time, he pledged to finance children from poorer backgrounds right through to 21 should they choose to go to university.
His only direct mention of gay rights was as part of a tribute to Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman’s work “pioneering this cause of equality” when he pledged “no discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, age, or faith. And no discrimination against the disabled.”
Mr Brown also took a tough stance on immigrants, confirming ID cards for foreign workers by next year and pledging that any immigrant caught selling drugs or using guns would be deported.
In an unusually personal speech, the Prime Minister spoke at length about his upbringing and in particular the effect his clergyman father had on his political views:
“My father was a minister of the church, and his favourite story was the parable of the talents because he believed – and I do too – that each and everyone of us has a talent and each and everyone of us should be able to use that talent.”
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The emphasis on the needs of families contrasted with Tory plans to single out married people and those in civil partnerships for tax breaks:
“And I say to the children of two parent families, one parent families, foster parent families; to the widow bringing up children: I stand for a Britain that supports as first class citizens not just some children and some families but supports all children and all families.
“We all remember that biblical saying: “suffer the little children to come unto me.” No Bible I have ever read says: “bring just some of the children.”
“Because no child should ever be written off, for mothers of infants, we will expand the help of nurse-family partnerships.”
The Prime Minister paid tribute to former party leaders Tony Blair and Neil Kinnock towards the end of his hour-long speech.