Brown launches leadership bid

Gordon Brown officially launched his bid for the Labour leadership today, with the promise to make Britain a “better and fairer place” run by a “humble” and accountable government.

After a 13-year hiatus the chancellor’s ambitions once again turn to Number Ten, after he launched his campaign with a speech in which he promised a new style of government.

After Labour was virtually excluded from local government in the south in last week’s council elections, Mr Brown will conduct his leadership campaign in the marginal constituencies in London and the south-east of England.

Tony Blair this morning gave his first official endorsement to Mr Brown, saying he was “absolutely delighted” to give the chancellor his “full support”.

His long-term colleague said Mr Brown “has what it takes” to lead the country, describing him as an “extraordinary and rare talent”.

Mr Blair continued: “He is absolutely determined to drive the modernisation of the country forward to meet the challenges of the coming decade.

“I also believe that as someone who has known him for 20 years as a friend and a colleague that he can make a real difference to this country for the better.

“I wish him well and I am delighted to support and endorse him fully.”

Mr Brown welcomed Mr Blair’s support, and played down the pair’s long-standing political rivalry. He referred to Mr Blair as a “friend” with whom he had grown up with in politics, adding it was right Mr Blair had won the labour leadership in 1994, but it was right he assumed it in 2007.

He reminded voters that the pair had been co-founders of the New Labour vision, quashing speculation Mr Blair’s departure would see a return to traditional Labour values.

Earlier a party spokesman denied there was any significance in the re-branding of the website to omit the New Labour slogan.

“I am pleased that Tony, my friend, has endorsed me this morning. It was always his intention to do so,” Mr Brown told reporters.

As leadership hopefuls John McDonnell and Michael Meacher insisted the chancellor would still face a challenge from one of them, Mr Brown said he would welcome any candidate wishing to challenge him.

Despite expectations of a “Brown coronation”, he insisted he would “work hard” for every vote.

Outlining his plans, Mr Brown promised to push for greater equality, as well as continuing Britain’s economic growth.

Britain is a greater country which can become greater still he said, echoing Mr Blair’s claim yesterday that the UK is the “greatest nation on earth”.

Mr Brown promised he would push for policies informed by communication with the public, adding he would serve the whole nation not sectional interests.

Mr Brown will publish a full manifesto after nominations close this Thursday. Clues were given in this morning’s speech, which described education as his “passion” and stressed the need for more affordable homes.