Gordon fights on but his time is ticking away

BEFORE stepping out to address what seems destined to be his last party conference as leader, Gordon Brown had been urged to make the &ldquo;speech of his life&rdquo; by the woman some are tipping to be his successor, Harriet Harman.<br /><br />The embattled Prime Minister certainly came out swinging, using the word &ldquo;fight&rdquo; no less than seven times in the first five minutes speaking. But the dour Scot was also in an unusually light-hearted mood.<br /><br />Not famed for his comic turns, the Prime Minister even tried his hand at a joke, telling delegates he had fielded questions from the US about the special relationship.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;m getting on with Peter just fine,&rdquo; came the punchline, raising a laugh, although the lustre of his comedic moment was somewhat tarnished by whispers that it wasn&rsquo;t the first time that the joke had been told in Labour circles.<br /><br />But Brown did not commit to a televised leadership debate, as many in his party hoped he would.<br /><br />Instead, he unveiled a series of new initiatives designed to put the spark back into his uncomfortable marriage with the British public.<br /><br />In a direct appeal to working Britons, he promised five years of minimum wage hikes, although the CBI was unimpressed, accusing him of treading on the toes of the Low Pay Commission.<br /><br />And the way forward, according to Brown, is not blue but green, with 250,000 new jobs to be created in carbon-saving industries.<br /><br />Rather than a farewell speech, it was intended to be a bold vision of the political future.<br /><br />But as the applause died away, it was hard to imagine Brown playing any part in it, especially after The Sun newspaper last night revealed it would back the Tories at the general election.