Gordon Brown is to tour the country to ask people in "every region and nation" how they believe Britain needs to change.

The Chancellor revealed his plans in an intensely personal speech, in which he spoke about his hopes of creating a "great British society" in the years to come.

Mr Brown made no direct reference to his hopes of replacing Tony Blair, but there was also no attempt to hide the fact that this was the speech of a leader in waiting.

In a clear reference to Mr Blair's impending retirement, Mr Brown paid generous tribute to the Prime Minister for leading Labour through " difficult and challenging years" - and also "for now asking us and challenging us as a party to begin to plan ahead."

Mr Blair has announced he will go before the next election, but no date for the handover of power has been revealed.

The theme emerging from the Labour Conference in Brighton this year is the desire of both the Blair and Brown camps of the party for an orderly transition.

As expected, Mr Brown insisted the next election would be fought by "new Labour renewed", and insisted his party would not abandon the reform programme started by Mr Blair.

This will alarm union leaders, who have been using the conference to attack the Government's reforms of public services and once hoped Mr Brown would support their call to end private sector involvement in health and education.

But the Chancellor also claimed Labour had failed to talk enough about its values.

He said: "When it is asked, centuries from now, who were the people who rid this country of child poverty, who gave every child the best start in life, let it be said it was this Labour Party, this Labour Government, this generation of dedicated men and women who led the way."

He wanted to halve child poverty by 2010, and help abolish it within a generation, he said.

He told delegates: "I believe that since 1997, as we have advanced towards full employment, reformed markets and state, mobilised the private sector as partners for the public interest, and promoted policies for social justice, we have not talked enough about their ethical foundations, of what, at root, gives purpose to our politics and builds trust in public services."

In unusually personal comments, the Chancellor shed his dour image to recall the lessons he learned as a child growing up in Fife, the son of a Church of Scotland minister.

"Why am I in politics? I will never forget what I was bought up to believe. I learned from my parents not just to do my best and to work hard, but to treat everyone equally, to tell the truth, to take responsibility.

"I learned from my mother and father that for every opportunity there was an obligation, for every demand a duty, for every chance given, a contribution to be made."

Birmingham MP Richard Burden (Northfield) added his voice to calls within Labour for the party to make a firmer commitment to its ideals.

Writing in a journal distributed to delegates at the conference, he said: "Forging a progressive consensus for Labour's vision over the coming decade may well mean being more up front about our commitment to equality, about the limits of markets at home as well as in the developing world and about reasserting public service as a core value of our politics."