Brown admits mistakes but vows to fight on
Gordon Brown admitted being hurt by media attacks on his leadership in his speech to the Labour party conference today but vowed to continue as prime minister.
In an emotional speech, Mr Brown said: “Where I’ve made mistakes I’ll put my hand up and try to put them right.
“So what happened with 10p stung me because it really hurt that suddenly people felt I wasn’t on the side of middle and modest incomes.”
The prime minister all but admitted his level of unpopularity saying: “If people say I’m too serious, quite honestly there’s a lot to be serious about.”
But he also shot down rebels within his own party, saying “the people of Britain would not forgive us if at this time we looked inwards to the affairs of just our party”.
He addressed the current chaos in the financial markets – chaos which seems to have improved his poll ratings – saying: “We haven’t seen anything this big since the industrial age”.
He continued: “We will be the rock of stability and fairness upon which people stand”.
Attacking the Tories on the issue of state interference in the market, he said “those without faith in government should not be allowed to lead one”.
But he also reiterated his pro-business credentials, saying business was vital to the health of the nation.
Laying down the groundwork for a new phase in Labour’s efforts to stay in power, Mr Brown called for a “new settlement” in the relationship between the market and state.
Mr Brown said he and chancellor Alistair Darling would work towards a five point programme: All transactions will be “transparent”. There will be “sound banking”, so risks are managed and priced “for bad times as well as good”. Bank board members will have to face “responsibility” for the risks they take. Bonuses will only be given on the basis of “hard work, effort and enterprise”. There will be a global system of financial supervision of financial markets.
Other promises included:
An expansion of free nursery places for two-year-old across the country, starting with 30 communities and moving on to 60.
The enshrining in legislation of the government’s commitment to ending child poverty by 2020.
Children failing in maths or language will be guaranteed personal catch up tuition.
The government will fund over a million new families to get free internet in their home.
Those with cancer will no longer have to pay prescription charges, with an eye to later abolishing all charges for patients with long-term conditions.
There was indication elderly people would be given extra funding for care in their own homes.
An independent commissioner will represent victims and witnesses going through crimes and court cases.
A migrant charge for public services will be introduced.
Reiterating his fairness agenda, he said: “Fairness is in our DNA. It’s why we exist. We don’t give in and we never will.”
Mr Brown won the most applause when he launched a section berating the Conservative record, saying: “We did fix the roof when the sun was shining.”
He added: “I’m all in favour of apprenticeships but this is no time for a novice”.
The speech ended with Mr Brown saying: “I know what I believe. I know who I am.
“I know what I want to do in this job. And I know the way to deal with tough times is to face them down.”
The speech was billed as the most important of his career, with rumours in the conference that he tore up the month-old speech he had prepared earlier and started afresh.