Gordon Brown targets Tory heartlands
Gordon Brown attempted to stamp his authority on the British
political landscape as he styled himself as the true champion of
Conservative values.In a naked attempt to steal voters from David
Cameron, the Prime Minister used a blue backdrop to make a series of
policy announcements aimed directly at the Tory heartland.
Setting out a manifesto he hopes will deliver another Labour
landslide, Mr Brown offered his own solutions to gun crime, hospital
superbugs and police bureaucracy in a patriotic speech that mentioned
"British" or "Britishness" 71 times.
Amid growing calls for an early election, he also offered to review
24-hour drinking, one of a series of measures designed to undercut Mr
Cameron's own policies, while pointedly failing to mention the Tory
In a relaxed performance that lasted for more than an hour, Mr Brown
spoke repeatedly of "aspiration" and appealed to hard-working families
who want to defend traditional British values, regardless of the party
they voted for in the past.
In addition, he echoed Margaret Thatcher when he declared himself a
Mr Brown's strategy to woo "Blue Brownites" is an attempt to
capitalise on recent criticism of Mr Cameron, who has angered party
traditionalists with his refusal to promise tax cuts and his desire to
move away from hardline policies on crime and immigration.
Afterwards, aides made clear Mr Brown's rapturously received speech -
his first as party leader - was designed to appeal over the heads of the
Labour delegates to the country at large, as the Prime Minister waits
until after this week's conference to decide whether to go for a snap
election on October 25 or November 1.
His refusal to talk about Mr Cameron was designed to show that Mr
Brown considers himself a national leader above party politics. He has
already wooed members of the Tory party into his administration and he
said yesterday that his aim was not just to "occupy the centre ground
but to shape it and expand it".
While the NHS, education and crime dominated the speech, Mr Brown
made a number of references to his own personal history, but he reserved
his strongest language for his attempts to cross the political divide
and win the support of Tory voters.
In his final rallying call he said: "So this is my pledge to the
British people: I will not let you down. I will stand up for our schools
and our hospitals. I will stand up for British values. I will stand up
for a strong Britain. And I will always stand up for you."
Evoking his religious upbringing, Mr Brown challenged Tory plans for
family support, which will offer tax perks for only married couples.
He said: "We all remember that biblical saying: 'Suffer the little
children and come unto me.' No Bible I have ever read says: 'Just bring
me some of the children.'"
And, in a direct appeal to non-Labour voters, he added: "I reach out
to all those who work hard and play by the rules, who believe in strong
families and a patriotic Britain, who may have supported other parties
but who, like me, want to defend and advance British values and our way
Last night the mood among delegates and MPs was that they were primed
for an election, although Mr Brown made no mention of a possible poll
and refused to answer questions on the subject in interviews ahead of
To rub salt into Tory wounds, Labour paraded two "Tory turncoats" at
the conference before Mr Brown took to the stage.
Quentin Davies, who crossed the floor soon after Mr Brown became
Prime Minister, received a standing ovation for his speech. Earlier
Shaun Woodward, who defected in 1999 and is now Northern Ireland
Secretary, also made a speech to delegates.
The Prime Minister used the speech to set out his personal credo. "I
am proud to be British. I believe in values.
My father and mother taught me about family and the great virtues of
hard work, doing your duty and always trying to do the right thing."
His speech was laced with repeated references to Britain and
Britishness. In an attempt to stake out traditional Tory ground, he
talked again about "British jobs for British workers".
Mr Brown announced that any "newcomers to Britain who were caught
selling drugs or using guns will be thrown out".
He pointed out that "two thirds of deaths from gun crime occur in
just four cities" and vowed to give the police the support to crack down
on gun crime. And in a pointed rebuff to Mr Cameron he denied Britain
was a "broken society".
And he said he would cut police bureaucracy by issuing 10,000
hand-held computers to officers to deal with crimes while staying on the
Last night Mr Cameron said: "After that uninspiring speech, it's
clear that Gordon Brown has no answers to Britain's problems.
"The Conservatives do, and that is why we have already called for a
general election and continue to do so. We are ready and waiting."