Gordon Brown’s first step

gordonbrownspeech I watched a good 40 minutes of Prime Minster Gordon Brown’s speech yesterday at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, broadcast live on BBC News.

If you read the speech, I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty good as far as political speeches go, which are clearly designed as much for interpretive reporting by the mainstream media as they are aimed at those physically present as well as the general public watching and listening.

Expectations for his keynote address to this conference were very high indeed, if reporting and commentary in the mainstream media this past week has been anything to go by.

There’s been much talk of this speech being a ‘make or break’ moment for Gordon Brown, the moment when he either asserts his authority as Prime Minister and leader of his party, or succumbs to continuing speculation and sniping from within his own party and beyond, with an outcome that would likely be politically fatal for him long before a next general election.

I suppose I was wondering most how he would do: how would he look, how would he sound; above all, would he look as though he has strength or would he appear weak.

On balance, I think he did well. He certainly didn’t appear weak; on the contrary, he looked quite comfortable. And I think it was a master stroke of planning for his wife Sarah Brown to address the conference before her husband took to the podium (a first at a British political conference, according to some media reports), setting a personal tone that I think helped Gordon Brown connect more to those watching. I certainly saw a personal side to him I’d not seen before.

I’m not so sure about the whizz-bang presentation effects – the colour scheme, the music, the video, all a bit too ‘American lite’ for my taste. But maybe we’d better get used to seeing major political events presented this way in the UK as it is about presentation and personalities today leading to instant analyses by anyone with an opinion and an internet connection (someone just like me, in fact).

There wasn’t any magic in this speech, though, nothing that made me say ‘Wow!’; it was a Gordon Brown speech: serious but not boring and, well, solid.

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the ‘Wow!’ factor, I’d give it a six.

As I was watching the events in Manchester, I was twittering some instant impressions, more as a sort of public notepad for quick-fire thoughts in response to what I was seeing and hearing on TV, rather than as a channel for exchanging opinion with other twitterers.

A one-way expression, not a conversation:

  • jangles: Wondering if Gordon Brown really can meet the very high expectations there seem to be for magic in his speech. Starting soon, live on TV. Sep 23, 2008 01:08 PM GMT
  • jangles: Heh! Background music at Labour conference: ‘Get It on’ by TRex. Sep 23, 2008 01:10 PM GMT
  • jangles: Sarah Brown now at podium at Labour conference. Warm up for Gordon? Sep 23, 2008 01:21 PM GMT
  • jangles: Here comes a video testimonial: ‘Gordon’s achievements’. Good grief, this is like a low rent sales conference. Talk about spin. Sep 23, 2008 01:24 PM GMT
  • jangles: Alastair Campbell defending the spin, er, focusing on what’s important at the conference. Sep 23, 2008 01:24 PM GMT
  • jangles: Audience looks bemused. Sep 23, 2008 01:25 PM GMT
  • jangles: Here he comes, Gordon Brown. Oh that music. Is he going to dance now? Sep 23, 2008 01:26 PM GMT
  • jangles: He’s got a receptive audience, lots of cheers. Sep 23, 2008 01:27 PM GMT
  • jangles: Building ‘a fair Britain for the new age,’ is Gordon’s theme. Sep 23, 2008 01:29 PM GMT
  • jangles: interesting colour scheme. Grey suit, purple tie, purple background. More lilac I think. But easy on the eye. Sep 23, 2008 01:31 PM GMT
  • jangles: ‘My children aren’t props, they’re people.’ That’ll be in the papers tomorrow. Expect more such sound bites. Sep 23, 2008 01:32 PM GMT
  • jangles: Just saw Neil Kinnock in the crowd. Is Tony Blair there I wonder. Sep 23, 2008 01:33 PM GMT
  • jangles: I’m looking to see where the cue cards are for the applause that happens after every paragraph. Sep 23, 2008 01:34 PM GMT
  • jangles: I’d like to listen to Gordon without the canned applause please. Sep 23, 2008 01:38 PM GMT
  • jangles: ‘End the dictatorship of oil and avert catastrophic climate change.’ Serious stuff. Sep 23, 2008 01:41 PM GMT
  • jangles: It’s all very well hearing about what Gordon and co will do. Where’s the proof of trust? Not heard that yet. Sep 23, 2008 01:44 PM GMT
  • jangles: ‘We will be the party of the family.’ I thought that was already part of the New Labour mantra. Sep 23, 2008 01:46 PM GMT
  • jangles: Wishing someone would stand up in the audience and say ‘Where’s the beef?’ Sep 23, 2008 01:48 PM GMT
  • jangles: Drat, have to prep for a conf call in 10 mins. Sep 23, 2008 01:49 PM GMT

So what impact has this speech had on a voter like me? Will it influence any thoughts I might have about who I’ll vote for at the next general election in 2010 or earlier?

One speech won’t make much difference to what most people think. I want to see some evidence and proof of what Gordon Brown says he will do. Can he stamp his authority on his own party? Can he really now show strong leadership as a Prime Minister?

This is just a first step. We’ve had the words, now let’s see the actions.

The answers to such questions will be quite clear on the day voters go to mark their ballot papers.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.