Fri, May 16, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Bruised Brown attempts fightbackA


Bruised at the ballot box and savaged by critics in his own ranks, beleaguered British Prime Minister Gordon Brown attempted a political fightback on Wednesday — outlining a raft of new policies and pondering a surprising proposal to become a reality TV star.

The taciturn Scot led his party to their worst municipal election defeats in 40 years earlier this month and has seen his reputation for economic competence crumble over the credit crunch and bungled tax changes.

With a possible defeat in a special election next week for a House of Commons seat, and emotive parliamentary battles over terror laws, abortion and stem cell research pending, one governing Labour lawmaker has suggested Brown is likely to be deposed soon.

Brown used a speech on Wednesday to preview his legislative program for next year, seeking to build new political momentum, one day after Treasury chief Alistair Darling pledged new help for low-and middle-income workers.

The leader won a rare cheer from his own ranks as he unveiled plans for greater protection for savers when banks fail, an extension of the number of apprenticeships in Britain and an offer of better working rights for temporary, or agency, workers.

Brown promised sweeping reforms of public services. He said patients with chronic illnesses should be given personal medical budgets to give them more control over their treatment and proposed laws to speed up the seizure of criminals’ assets.

Brown could be looking to Donald Trump for new inspiration — weighing an unlikely charm blitz centered on an Apprentice-style TV show for young would-be lawmakers.

The plan was disclosed on Tuesday when Communities Secretary Hazel Blears left a document on view as she left a Cabinet meeting.

Photographs of the paper published by British media showed that it listed details of a planned BBC TV program called Junior PM.

The note said the show would be “a golden opportunity” for Brown to ditch his sometimes glum image.

Opposition Conservative party leader David Cameron taunted that Brown should forget about plans for a reality TV role and instead call a national election. That would “give everyone the chance to stand up to the prime minister and say: ‘You’re fired’,” he said.

Brown has made repeated attempts to soften his demeanor in recent weeks: holding talks with pop star Shakira and recording a video message for American Idol.

But the efforts brought little reward in municipal polls on May 1, when Labour lost hundreds of local council seats and the Conservatives snatched control of London’s City Hall for the first time.

Frank Field, a Labour lawmaker, said on Sunday he would be very surprised if Brown led the party into the next national election, which must be called by mid-2010. He said Brown’s personality was a “mega-problem” for the government, though later apologized.

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