Balls admires Brown’s “grip”

Ed Balls was in praiseworthy mood for the prime minister last night as he assessed Gordon Brown’s performance in Manchester.

The children’s secretary said Mr Brown had come up with the speech he needed to after weeks of mounting pressure and a party conference dominated by speculation over the leadership.

“I think the test for Gordon wasn’t whether he got a standing ovation in the hall because Labour leaders get standing ovations when they make speeches,” he told

“The test was whether people felt inside that he was the right man and this could be done. And I think the passion and the policies, the sense of grip, I think it had that effect. People felt it could be done.”

His comments came hours before he addressed delegates in his own speech, in which he announced a £20 million drive to cut obesity by giving primary school children in deprived areas free school meals.

Mr Balls launched his own attack against the Conservatives, who he derided for failing to live up to Labour’s achievements in cutting child poverty.

“Look past the camouflage: David Cameron’s warm words and vague aspirations will not help a single child out of poverty,” he said.

“Now is not the time to give up or back away, but to press ahead with our investment and reform.”

Whether the voters will respond to this rhetoric, and that of Mr Brown’s yesterday, remains to be seen, he admitted yesterday evening.

“That is not going to be sorted out by one speech and one conference,” he said.

“But this is the right place for him to be. And it’s a big choice for the country and there’s a number of months before the election, whenever that is, and we’ve got to do what he did every day.”