The speech in full
Gordon Brown put education and health at the heart of his agenda for Labour's second decade in power
today as he used his maiden conference speech as party leader to promise stronger public services and
a fairer society for all.
But he kept the country guessing as to whether he will capitalise on recent strong opinion polls and
call a snap general election to earn a full five-year mandate - although he joked that when people now
asked him if he recommended his job, he liked to reply: "Not yet."
The Prime Minister received a rapturous ovation as he strode on the platform of the Bournemouth
conference hall and had to wait several minutes for the applause to die down so he could start to
When he did there was none of the rhetorical brilliance displayed by his predecessor, Tony Blair -
who routinely used the conference platform to woo Labour doubters. There were also precious few jokes.
Instead, for slightly after an hour, Mr Brown listed the big issues he wants to tackle in his premiership,
repeatedly reassuring delegates - and voters beyond - that he was the right man for the job.
On education, Mr Brown pledged to give give every child 15 years of schooling from the age of three.
As part of a revolution in childcare, women will get nine months paid maternity leave from this year -
and the longer-term target was to give them a full 12 months after every child.
Mr Brown also pledged new rules to tackle binge drinking and the sale of alcohol to minors, and announced
plans to build new youth centres to keep young people off the streets.
Despite its lack of rhetorical flourishes, the speech went down well with delegates, especially from
the trades unions. Derek Simpson, leader of Unite, said: "It was a captain’s innings of a speech, just
like Geoffrey Boycott’s. There were no sixes just steady run-making."
But David Cameron, the Tory leader, who was not mentioned at all by Mr Brown, was scathing. "After that
uninspired speech, it is clear that Gordon Brown has no answers to Britain's problems. The Conservatives
do and that's why we have all along called for a general election and continue to do so today. We are
ready and waiting."
Mr Brown told delegates he was "honoured and humbled" by the trust the party had placed in him.
He went on: "No one could have foreseen all the events that Britain has been through since June. But
tested again and again the resilience of the British people has been powerful proof of the character
of our country.
"Early on a June morning, two cars were found parked and packed with explosives in Haymarket, London.
They were put there to bring terror and death to men and women who would do nothing wrong but be out
with their friends, walk on our streets and visit our capital.
"But from the bomb disposal experts who courageously risked their lives, to the Londoners who defiantly
went on with their lives, that day the world witnessed the resolve and strength of the British people."
Mr Brown also praised baggage handler John Smeaton - present in the hall - for his role in tackling a
terrorist involved in the attempt to blow up Glasgow Airport.
The Prime Minister went on to catalogue the efforts of emergency services and the public during the
summer’s floods, and detail the plight of a Surrey farmer who discovered foot and mouth disease in
"Instead of leaving us pessimistic, these three months make us more optimistic about what we the
British people at our best can do. Our response was calm and measured. We simply got on with the
job. Britain has been tested and not found wanting. This is who we are."
On health, Mr Brown said that he wanted to transform the NHS into a service that was "accessible
and personal to all".
"Our great ambition now: a National Health Service that is also a personal health service," he said.
The Government's plans included deep-cleaning every ward to help clear up MRSA and C-Difficile, doubling
the number of hospital matrons and giving them the power to sack cleanin contractors who fail to deliver.
He also wanted an NHS under which patients could see a consultant in days not months, make GP hours more
friendly to families, and expand screening for breast and colon cancers.
But he kept the most personal part of his speech for last, however, telling delegates about a rugby
accident at the age of 16 that cost him his sight in one eye and almost cost him the sight in both.
" I learned that with a simple twist of fate, life can change," he said.
"It was the skills of a surgeon, the care of wonderful nurses, and attention and, yes, the love and
care of the NHS staff that managed to save one of my eyes It is because of the NHS that I can see the
words I read today."
He added: "Sometimes people say I am too serious and I fight too hard, and maybe that's true. But
these experiences taught me what families all across Britain know: that things don't come easy and
there are things worth fighting for.
"Like so many people across this country I have the best of reasons to believe in the life-saving
power of the NHS - and the liberating power of education - and for making them both the best they
"So this is my pledge to the British people: I will not let you down; I will stand up for our schools
and hospitals; I will stand up for British values; I will stand up for a strong Britain; and I will
always stand up for you."
Source: TimesOnline, Sep.24, 2007