Ministers united behind leader

Leading Cabinet ministers have heaped praise on Gordon Brown after the prime minister’s leader’s speech in Manchester.

Speaking to politics.co.uk within the conference centre, business secretary Mr Hutton said Mr Brown had put in a “very good performance”.

“He made it clear what the government’s all about, what we’re fighting for and that’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what you want from your leader and that’s what we’ve got today,” he said.

Culture secretary Mr Burnham, who earlier today delivered his own speech to conference, said “it was a good moment for the Labour party this afternoon”.

“I do think people in times like this want to look to their prime minister and say, ‘look, what kind of man have we got here?’ That’s what Gordon Brown was answering today,” he told politics.co.uk.

And communities secretary Hazel Blears pointed out you “don’t usually get” standing ovations in the middle of the speech.

All three acknowledged Labour needs to improve its performance in the polls, she told the website. Mr Hutton said all Labour supporters want to see “the popularity of the government improve” because “that’s what we’re fighting to achieve”.

He added: “In electoral politics you have to persuade everyone else that your view is the right view and that’s what we’re all determined to do.”

And Mr Burnham admitted the run-up to conference had been a difficult period for the party. But he said former prime minister Tony Blair had faced similar periods.

“What often happens is when conference comes round, the voice of the majority of the Labour party makes itself clear – to want that spirited unity and that is the outpouring you saw this afternoon.”

Ms Blears added: “I think what you’ve seen the whole of this week, not just during the speech, is people saying that if our party starts to just talk about its own affairs at a time of economic difficulty then that’s the time we will be irrelevant and out of touch, and I need to concentrate on the priorities of the people we represent.”