Brown speech: Reactions

Leading members of Gordon Brown’s government give politics.co.uk their response to Gordon Brown’s speech to the 2009 Labour conference.

Jack Straw, justice secretary

“I thought the most effective part of a very good speech was the section at the end when he was quiet – getting people to listen to him and to listen to the choice between a Labour government able to manage us through a completely new period and a Conservative party which has been holding back on the consequences of its policies.

“Majorities are made up of a series of minorities. Certainly saying however to middle Britain, we really are on their side and we have been on their side…, but we’ve got to continually upgrade our policies and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Jack Straw on Brown speech:

Andy Burnham, health secretary

“I think it was a very moral case the prime minister put out there. A moral case – but also a Labour vision of the future. The hall responded because he was very much talking to people’s heart and their soul – the vision of the country they want to see.

“The instruction was very clear – think big, fight hard. So we’ve got our marching orders now! We’ve got big, bold policies – the national care service in my area, I’m delighted the prime minister has put that centre stage. If we believe in that vision let’s go out there and fight hard for it.

“It sounded like a prime minister who was clear and confident about the choice he was offering before the country. He was setting out a Labour stall and saying ‘this is what we believe in’. It’s your choice at the election but this is a Labour party that’s confident about the future, knows what it wants to do.”

Andy Burnham on Brown speech:

Caroline Flint, former Europe minister

“I thought it was a good speech. I liked the fact it really re-energised the New Labour message about the many, not the few. What won us those elections from 1997 onwards was about connecting with hard-working families and I think that was really emphasised today.

“It’s all about giving ammunition to the activists but also a vision for people watching and listening today. I think he really achieved that today.

“It is that reach to those people that won us elections in the past. People who don’t want government to run their lives but want to know they’re going to be there providing the decent services the majority use, our schools and hospitals.

“What will be important in the weeks and months ahead is how Gordon and his team demonstrate how we’re going to deliver this, how we’re going to pay for it – and don’t allow the Tories and the Liberal Democrats to use that argument to undermine what I think was a very good platform today.”

Caroline Flint on Brown speech:

Hilary Benn, environment secretary

“I think Gordon Brown showed why he will still be our prime minister after the next election. I think the key thing he said was – we’ve got to think big and we’ve got to fight hard.

“The test of anybody’s politics and the test of a government is: do you do things that are going to help people? And I think Gordon demonstrated today this is a party that’s going to fight very hard to make those things happen. It makes people realise the next election is a real choice.”

Hilary Benn on Brown speech:

John Denham, communities and local government secretary

“What he made very clear was that once recovery is firmly established… we’ve got to deal with the borrowing. But he also made it clear that each of us as ministers know that we can continue to make choices which continue to improve stuff. In local government, which is my responsibly, we will share with the health service delivering the new promises on adult care and we can do that even though we’ve got to make savings in the rest of our services.

“They weren’t individual announcements – there was a theme to them. These are things which for the typical family on a middle income who’s feeling the pinch at the moment will benefit from, and so will people on modest incomes.

“There’s a big difference between that and, say, Tory local councils, who are saying you’ve got to pay twice before you can get a decent service, or David Cameron’s tax cuts for the every rich – that’s a choice.”

John Denham on Brown speech:

Shahid Malik, communities and local government minister

“It was an amazing speech which touched on every aspect of life and really… highlighted the differences between a Labour government and what a Tory government might look like.

“I think that’s just what people wanted to hear. You have the massive difficulties with the economy, with the global recession, we’ve had all the issues with politics and allowances and expenses.

“We’ve had 12 years of a Labour government and really this was an opportunity to define what this government will be about moving forward. I think that’s what he set out to do – and that’s what he achieved.”

Shahid Malik on Brown speech: