Gordon Brown’s speech: Anything new?
The frustrating thing about this Government is that they sometimes fail to follow through on good intentions with effective policies. Example: we are still waiting for a clear policy programme to deliver on the 2006 commitment to 100,000 jobs in the green economy let alone the recent commitment to one million green jobs.
I gripe in this fashion only to cover myself when I say that I thought Brown’s speech today had a fair bit to recommend it.
– He talked about the need for a “new settlement for new times”; a clear signalling of a break with the economic policies of the past.
– He insisted he was on the side of “Britain’s vast majority – people on middle and modest incomes”; I think this is a shift in his language which has tended to focus on the poorest (particularly children) and is creating a potential dividing line between the rich and everyone else.
– He described those who said governments should not insure people against risks were on “the wrong side of history”; a suggestion, I think, that he sees an agenda of a more pro-active state as seizing this moment of crisis.
– The most detailed policy announcement in the speech was on regulation of the banking and finance sector where he outlined the five principles to inform that regulation (transparency; sound banking; responsibility; integrity; global standards and supervision) which he will propose to the world’s finance ministers. This is a very significant and welcome break with the past approach which featherbedded the City.
– Brown spoke about the “great and historic endeavour” to transform our energy use to “end the dictatorship of oil” by shifting to nuclear power, renewables and clean coal. This may be a retread of old (and pretty ineffectual) policies in this area but it sounded a bit stronger than before to me.
– He also announced that he wanted to unleash a “new wave of rising social mobility”. Although as Nicola points out in the previous post talking about social mobility and avoiding all mention of equality as he did is meaningless.
– Finally, he said he would enshrine the 2020 target to abolish child poverty in law; not a bad step but enshrining the 2010 target to halve child poverty would be even better but why set yourself up for a fall!
So I think the rhetoric and language is shifting in the right direction. Not enough to encompass talk of fair taxation; and if you saw the focus group of floating voters on Newsnight last week, you’ll know how big an issue this is out there and how the Lib Dems are onto something. But there is an attempt here to shift political discourse in response to very significantly changed times.
The questions now is will the Government follow through with effective and bold policy to make the rhetoric a reality? We should know within a few weeks of the return of Parliament.