Harman rallies the troops with brutal attack on the Sun

By Ian Dunt

Harriet Harman sent out an impassioned rallying cry to Labour party members this afternoon at the closing ceremony of the Labour conference, with a brutal attack on the Sun newspaper.

The speech came as the results of a YouGov poll for Sky filtered through the audience, putting Labour on 30 per cent to the Tories’ 37 per cent – the governing party’s best performance for some time.

But it wasn’t enough to undo the damage caused by the Sun headline yesterday morning. The newspaper’s decision to back the Tories caused shockwaves of indignation across the conference.

Timed to coincide with celebrations of Gordon Brown’s impassioned and well-delivered leader’s speech, the Sun headline all-but detonated the conference by undermining Labour just at the moment the party felt a glimmer of hope about its electoral prospects.

The deputy leader fought back against the development during her speech.

“We will not be by the Tories that its their turn, their right, to lead this country,” she said.

“We won’t be told by the media it is their turn, their right to lead this country,” she continued, to impassioned applause from delegates.

“A free press is an important part of our democracy. It must be free but it must be fair. The press doesn’t decide to runs this country – the people do.”

At other points, she tried to brush off the fact Rupert Murdoch had evidently switched his support to the Conservatives, by joking with the audience.

“We’ve made progress on equality, even in the Sun,” she said, before describing a girl on page three of the newspaper called Harriet who had written that she was concerned about jobs for women.

“The only problem is Harriet is so concerned about jobs she’s forgotten to put her clothes on,” she added, to laughter from Labour members.

Similar sentiments were expressed earlier by foreign secretary David Miliband, during his speech to conference.

“Let’s start with a simple truth,” he told delegates.

“The earth does revolve around the sun, just not the one that’s printed in Wapping.”

During other sections, Ms Harman launched a strong defence of Labour’s record, and tried to put a brave face on what was, at best, a mixed conference for the ruling party.

“This really has been our most important conference for over a decade,” she said.

“We’ve reignited the fire of our passion and our commitment. This country needs a Labour government.”

She also defended Gordon Brown, in a passage which drew considerable support from delegates, many of them still reeling from yesterday’s developments.

“It was Gordon who charted the way forward, not only for this country but also for the world,” she said.

“We all know that without Gordon’s leadership this country would have faced not just a recession but a devastating global depression which would have lasted a decade.”

The Conservatives kick off their conference – the last of the season – next week in Manchester.