Brown must reach out, Alexander urges

By Alex Stevenson

Gordon Brown must “talk to the country” in his leader’s speech, the man responsible for coordinating Labour’s general election campaign has urged.

International development secretary Douglas Alexander told politics.co.uk at Labour’s autumn conference in Brighton the prime minister’s primary audience should not be delegates in the hall.

“I think his responsibility is not to talk to the conference – it’s to talk to the country,” he said.

“To set out clearly there are big choices ahead in the months to come. To set out clearly the differences between a party that is securing the recovery and that would wreck the recovery.

“A party that has a plan to deliver new jobs and a party that has no plan to deliver new jobs. A party committed to putting frontline public services first and a party, I believe, that has a deficit reduction plan that is no more than a public services reduction plan.

“There are big choices in the months ahead. I hope Gordon takes the opportunity to set those before the public.”

Throughout his premiership Mr Brown has struggled to show to the public his “lighter side”, as business secretary Peter Mandelson described it earlier this month. Mr Alexander brushed off suggestions he needed to do more to lighten up.

“I think Gordon will set out very clearly why he’s in politics, what he cares about and, more critically, his recognition that what really matters is the future of the country,” he added.

Lord Mandelson’s speech yesterday was arguably the best received of the conference so far, despite it being described as “coy”, “camp” and “kittenish” by one Guardian journalist.

Mr Alexander was full of praise, describing it as a “bravura performance”.

“It was once said by Tony Blair that he saw his task to make the Labour party love Peter Mandelson,” he said.

“I think the response Peter received in the hall is a tribute to the recognition that’s now very widespread – that Peter has not just the interests of the Labour party at heart but the interests of the country at heart and is making a huge contribution to the work of the government.”