UK chancellor Gordon Brown blatantly set out his stall for the leadership of the Labour Party and the country this afternoon (25 September 2006), with a ringing endorsement for Tony Blair, who has announced that he will leave office within the lifetime of this parliament.
He declared: ìIt has been a privilege for me to work with and for the most successful-ever Prime Ministerî, said he and the PM regretted some of their past differences, and constantly used the epithet ëNew Labourí as well as Mr Blairís mantra of ìrights and responsibilitiesî.
Nevertheless, he hinted at a ìnew politicsî to match a changing political agenda. And his praise for business and enterprise was matched by the promise of ìan end to the dole as we know itî. He talked about personal and collective environmental care and new jobs coming together.
Most significant of all, many will say, Brown announced that parliament not the executive should retain the final say on ìissues as important as peace and warî. This proposed brake on war will be seen as a definite rebuttal of Tony Blairís refusal to allow a vote on the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan ñ which have turned out to be massively unpopular and counter-productive.
However, there was not a word on the Trident nuclear submarine replacement, which Mr Brown appeared to back recently, and which has been dubbed "anti-God" by church leaders and "iresponsible" by CND and peace activists.
Yesterday Christian Socialist Movement (CSM) director Dr Andrew Bradstock said that Mr Blair should have listened to the anti-war voices of the churches in 2003, especially in their plans for non-violent action against dictator Saddam Hussein.
Mr Brown referred explicitly to his Presbyterian Christian roots, saying that this was his inspiration and motivation. In doing this he stressed ìshared valuesî, not just those accruing from particular communities.
He said that his father, a church minister, gave him a ìmoral compassî and acted out of compassion rather than ìtheological zealî ñ of the kind the current PM has sometimes been accused.
He also declared that ìfaith in peopleî meant that ìwe must have more than a programme, we must have a soulî. One of his US progressive Christian mentor Jim Wallisí books is called ëThe Soul of Politicsí.
Mr Brown termed the situation in Darfur ìgenocideî (something that has mostly been the prerogative of the US up till now), called for United Nations intervention in Sudan, and cited the UN Millennium goals as among his aims.
He said that tackling global warming must not be an excuse for rich countries to develop at the expense of the poor, heralding a 20 billion dollar global fund to assist the most vulnerable ñ a sum which campaigners say is still ìa pittance in international termsî.
He was more interested in the condition of the arctic than the Arctic Monkeys, declared Mr Brown - referring to the rock band alleged to be one of his favourites.
However the Chancellor made no mention of the global debt crisis or the failure of the G8 rich countries to deliver on their promises.
He declared: ìStrip away the rhetoric about globalisation and it comes down to one thingÖ the skills and ability of all our peopleî, using this as a springboard for a call for universal ìexcellenceî in education, matching the resources of the private sector in state education.
The Chancellor also talked of ìactive citizenshipî and a ìshared British national purposeî On terrorism he pledged ìany necessary stepsî to protect the country against threat, and he also talked about ìwinning the battle for hearts and mindsî.
He said the voluntary sector should be a full partner in service delivery, with people and communities taking power from the state. But this should not be an excuse for government to neglect its responsibilities.
In spite of concerted efforts by human rights campaigners, there was no compromise on identity cards, an indication that the government would retain the right to extend detention without trial, and a tough warning against lawlessness among the young matched by a promise of investment in youth.
Brown said that in addition to ìmanaged migrationî, citizenship and immigration should require ìa shared languageî, English. He condemned the far-right racist BNP and ìnarrow nationalismî, emphasising that he was ìproud to be [both] Scottish and British.î
His speech disparaged personalities at the expense of politics. It emphasised national unity and purpose, but its rhetoric drew on the strength ìthat defeated fascism and built the National Health Serviceî, appealing to the left ñ while stoutly defending controversial NHS reforms which critics say are privatisation by stealth.
The Chancellor ñ clearly looking to a future as Prime Minister and Labour leader ñ ended his manifesto with a ringing call to be allowed to take on David Cameronís Conservatives, and a plea to maintain vision and build ìthe good societyî.
[Also on Ekklesia: CSM head says Blair should have heeded churches on Iraq war 25/09/06; Gordon Brown's Africa debt action inspired by church; Gordon Brown calls for a day to celebrate Britishness; Chancellor leaves on africa mission to assault poverty; Brown pledges an end to global education poverty; Brown disappoints churches with backing for nuclear weapons; Christians begin march against Trident replacement; Brownís billions highlight rich-poor dilemma; Brown poverty plan will cut aid, says WDM; British Prime Minister seeks divine solace in Manchester 24/09/06 Bush's church urges pull-out of US troops from Iraq 24/09/06; Thousands march against war at Labour conference in Manchester 23 Sep 2006; Christian Socialists defend NestlÈ sponsorship]