Did Brown's Speech Stop the Rot?
If the major, four-yearly convention speeches of presidential candidates in America provide only a temporary 'bounce', how much more transient is the impact of British party conference leaders' speeches. They are hyped up by a media that is part of the political in crowd, desperate to promote them as game-changing events, but the reality is that they barely feature on the radar of most ordinary people. The conference speech is there to shore up the party faithful, and project a positive image to the wider electoral world, but it is unlikely to change any electoral arithmetic.
Given that, how did Gordon Brown do? He can probably chalk this up as a success. He reassured his party audience, even giving some good old fashioned Labour sentiments to a party not always used to getting those from its leaders. He came across as a little more human, gave some decent lines about changing things one life at a time, had an eye-catching policy announcement - the removal of prescription charges for cancer sufferers - and even delivered some very effective, and savage, one-liners. No surprise that at least two papers are leading with headlines that read "No Time For A Novice" (with Newsnight following suit), although his more personal, anti-Cameron jibe about not using children as props came across as just nasty, and sat uneasily with his decision to use his wife as a helpful prop to introduce him.
Brown continues to look awkward when playing it light, and in truth he didn't waste much time on lightness this time either. Nonetheless, he showed that he is absolutely determined to stay on, gave warning to party opponents that he will be no pushover (did they ever think otherwise?) and may have hinted at a more left-wing focus for his remaining year and a half in power. Cameron's repsonse should be interesting.