Politics Summary: Wednesday, September 30th

Gordon Brown’s “fight back” speech to conference is generally well regarded by the papers. For The Times it was a speech to “prove that he had not run out of steam” while the Independent says he “rallies wounded party with list of New Labour successes.” The Telegraph write Brown “fights to regain voters’ trust in Labour Party.” The Financial Times takes a narrower focus with “Brown takes aim at free market.” Reaction on the blogosphere tended to fall along party lines, described by Labour List as “very effective in rallying the Labour party” and “Good but not good enough” by Iain Dale.

Arguably the most significant headline is The Sun’s claim that “Labour’s Lost It. The Guardian describing it as “timed to inflict maximum damage on Labour.” Adam Boulton of Sky News said, “There is no evidence that newspaper endorsements affect their own readers, let alone the broader public, but they are significant in the battle of ideas.”

The main themes and phrases in the speech were “change” “people” “new” “Britain” “just””choice.” New policies focused on care with a £750 million programme to provide free home care for elderly people with dementia and a promise of free childcare by the end of the next Parliament for 250,000 two-year-olds from poorer families. Brown also promised a referendum to replace the first-past-the-post electoral system with the alternative vote system. Most controversial was new plans to put 16 and 17 year old mothers on benefits in supervised hostels.

Elsewhere at Labour party conference, there was an impassioned floor debate on housing policy where Conservative local council projects came in for fierce attack; Andrew Rawnsley talked to Peter Mandelson about his role in new Labour; and Ben Bradshaw issued a warning to the BBC saying, “Like all successful organisations the BBC must change to survive.”

Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s trip to Labour party conference, where he spoke at a fringe, was overshadowed when lawyers representing 16 Palestinians asked a London court to issue an arrest warrant for alleged war crimes and breaches of the Geneva conventions during the Gaza offensive. The attempt was rejected.

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