Speeches I wish Gordon Brown had made (number 94)


I’ve been thinking recently about the comparisions between the Credit Crunch and the post-9/11 crisis in foreign policy, mostly in terms of how leaders have chosen to respond to the emergent situation.

In 2001, the US/UK consensus on foreign policy came to an abrupt end, and leaders – foremost among them Tony Blair – were keen to expound new doctrines to guide the formation of the post-9/11 policy on diplomacy, allies and security.

Surveying the scene less than a month after 9/11, Tony told the Labour Party conference on 2nd October 2001:

This is a moment to seize. The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us.

Today, humankind has the science and technology to destroy itself or to provide prosperity to all. Yet science can’t make that choice for us. Only the moral power of a world acting as a community, can.

“By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more together than we can alone”.

For those people who lost their lives on September 11 and those that mourn them; now is the time for the strength to build that community. Let that be their memorial.

Whatever his faults and whatever the flaws in this “re-ordering” process, this is Tony’s raw leadership quality shining through.

The world needed a new foreign policy for a new age: Tony sought, within a month, to establish its case, to demonstrate that this posed an opportunity and not just a threat, and to establish some clear moral principles around which the new way would be ordered.

So how does Gordon compare?

Personally, I think Gordon has handled the technical detail of holding back the worst of the recession well. I also think that a lot of the blame being laid at his door for the recession happening is unfair.

But all of this assesses Gordon as if he were a mechanic, called in to fix a broken machine. He’s not: he’s a leader. What is really lacking – and is is particularly lacking in comparison to Blair’s approach post-9/11 – is the vision for what is to come next. Indeed, it’s the analysis of what got us here in the first place too.

I’m no speechwriter, but I’d like to have heard something along these lines:

We meet today in times more tumultuous than can be remembered for a generation.

Never in recent generations have banks been at risk of failing. Never before has every country – no matter what measures it had put in place – suffered equally, as the tide of the credit crunch rose over the flood defences of our regulatory systems. Never have the excesses of so few risk takers exposed so many to such risk.

We have been battered, and we feel bruised. Many of our people feel, for the first time in years, that their homes, jobs and standard of living are under threat. Labour cannot walk by on the other side. We are with those who suffer because of the credit crunch every step of the way.

But our pain as a nation is ultimately temporary: our economy will begin to grow again.

What will not recover – what will be consigned to history – will be the faith we had in the conventional wisdom that came before.

An economy can be driven by its financial sector. Regulation stifles enterprise. International competitiveness matters most. Each was our watchword. Each now is hollow and empty.

For 25 years and more, governments – Labour and Tory, British and foreign – accepted a consensus on the economy that was shown ultimately to be build on sand.

So what is important now is the consensus that we are to build from this crisis. How can we make our economy more robust? How can we ensure that wealth, and the opportunity to acquire it, are shared equitably? How can we ensure that the many’s prosperity is not held ransom to the recklessness of a tiny few?

Our strength in the future will not rely on our ability to produce greater and more complex financial instruments. It will rely on our ability to solve the problems of the future: we shall harness the skill and ingenuity of the British people to halt climate change, cure disease and tackle poverty, at home and abroad.

Ad the test of the economy of the future will be that we will be rewarded justly for our efforts.

The old economy is dead, mourned only by those who still cling to its false hope. Now we have an opportunity to build afresh in its place: an economy that is stronger, fairer, and more robust. If ever there was a mission for a progressive generation, this was it.

OK, so it might screech around the edges slightly – but wouldn’t something like this be an improvement?


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3 Responses to “Speeches I wish Gordon Brown had made (number 94)”

  1. manofkent86 Says:

    At the risk of starting a debate, whilst I love the style of your speech and suspect it would be politically more appealing to the public, the content troubles me. In the wake of the rise of global terrorism, the need to categorise it as a radically new threat has fundamentally weakened what was an excellent and functioning justice system both domestically and on an international level. There is a danger of doing the same with the financial system. If we get too excited about bubbles and booms and busts the temptation is to try to prevent them ever happening. The truth is that the more you strive to prevent these things happening, the worse you ultimately make them. The banking system was generally fine, it needed moderate tinkering, not a new world order.

  2. voteredgogreen Says:


  3. Ramsay MacDonald responds to the economic crisis « Frank Owen’s Paintbrush Says:

    […] week or so ago VoteRedGoGreen wrote a post on what he would like to hear Gordon Brown say in a speech outlining the Labour government’s response to the country’s economic […]

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