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19 May 2008

What Gordon should say next

Tackle inequality and slash spin. One-time Labour leadership contender Bryan Gould writes the speech

By Bryan Gould

“The local election results and the opinion polls convey a pointed message – that my government and I have for the time being lost the confidence of our supporters. We cannot deny the reality that the next election may be a step too far for a government completing its third term.

To accept this is oddly liberating. It means that, instead of focusing exclusively on trying to win an election, I can now concentrate on delivering – for the two years that remain of this term – the best government this country can have. History may judge that I failed as an election-winner; my term as prime minister might yet deliver the verdict that I did the job well.

To achieve this, I must first clear away the baggage that I inherited. I will, for example, lance the boil of the Iraq invasion by setting up an independent commission to establish how and why that came about. This will signal a return to the ethical foreign policy advocated by Robin Cook – we will, for example, finance the return to their homeland of those displaced when the US military base on Diego Garcia was established.

I will cut by half the number of media advisers employed by the government, with the intention of showing that our message is about real issues, rather than spin. And I have learnt and will apply the lesson that a government that ignores its supporters for the sake of pleasing its opponents will end up being disliked by everyone.

I will ensure that my government maintains unity and cohesion by taking careful account of what my MPs and those who elected them are telling me. I will recognise in advance those issues – such as the removal of the 10p tax band or the 42-day detention period – where a broad consensus looks impossible to achieve. Where there is a consensus, my colleagues will be expected to abide by it.

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I will review those policies – even the sacred cows – that have failed to deliver. I am not convinced, for example, that academy schools have succeeded or that we have even applied the right criteria for evaluating them.

Because I believe that my government should be accountable for its own economic policy, I will reconsider whether it is right to contract that policy out to an “independent” central bank, and re-evaluate the advantages of restoring the main elements of economic policy to the arena of public debate and democratic process. My goal is a sustainable economy that delivers better standards of living, employment and public services to ordinary people, rather than inflated bonuses to those who create no new wealth but manipulate existing assets to their own advantage.

I will return to my basic political instincts – those that brought me into Labour politics in the first place. I regard as unacceptable the rapid growth in inequality in this country. We cannot expect people to take pride in their country and to work hard for its success if they do not share in the benefits that success will bring.

While I believe that a properly functioning market is irreplaceable, I do not accept that the market is infallible. It must be regulated and supplemented if it is to deliver acceptable outcomes to everyone. There is, in other words, an important role for public services in a modern economy. My government will give them priority over the next two years.

The next election is in the lap of the gods – or, more prosaically, in the hands of the voters, as it should be. Between now and then, you will see less, not more, of me on your television screens. I will be concentrating instead on leading a competent, caring and effective government.”

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