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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 September 2007, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Labour 'ready to fight election'
Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah on their way to conference
Mr Brown and his wife Sarah have now arrived in Bournemouth

Labour is ready for a general election, whenever Gordon Brown chooses to call one, the party's election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander has said.

His comments came as Mr Brown arrived at Bournemouth ahead of his first party conference as prime minister.

It follows a further round of opinion polls suggesting the party is in an increasingly strong position.

Mr Alexander told The Guardian donations to the Labour party were up and it was ready to go to the country.

Mr Alexander is the chief organiser of the party's attempts to secure a fourth term.

While the prime minister may not use the conference to announce his general election plans, the rally is still likely to be his last before a general election, the BBC News website's political correspondent Nick Assinder says.

'Serious consideration'

On Friday an opinion poll for the BBC suggested the party's reputation had survived the Northern Rock affair with its reputation for economic competence intact.

"It all adds to pressure on the prime minister to capitalise on that Brown bounce, which appears to keep going and going," said BBC political correspondent Robin Bryant in Bournemouth.

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said: "I think everybody is ready whenever Gordon decides to have an election.

"I'm sure he will give this a lot of serious consideration, that's the way he approaches things."

Mr Brown is set to make a symbolic change from the Blair conference years by delivering his speech to the party a day earlier than his predecessor, on Monday.

The overriding aim of the event will be to mark the end of the Blair decade - and the prospect of a possible, unprecedented fourth term in power.

The party coffers still remain an issue, with a 24m debt to address, according to official figures from the party's NEC annual report for 2006.

This does not include the widely reported increase in donations and pledges which accompanied Mr Brown's rise to the top job in June this year.

EU referendum

Also, the prime minister could experience a bumpy ride at the conference from the unions.

He is expected to face backlash over his attempt to stem union power by removing their right to force conference debates. Public sector pay and the threat of strikes are also issues which could occupy conference time.

In addition, the TUC has demanded a referendum on the EU treaty which Mr Brown opposed and this issue may surface.

But Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, told BBC Radio 4 that Mr Brown was a "serious politician" and praised his "inclusive, wide approach".

Meanwhile, ministers have reportedly been told to limit their speeches to seven minutes to allow more time for contributions from delegates.

The rule will not apply to Gordon Brown, who is due to continue the tradition he established as chancellor of addressing conference on Monday, with the day's theme billed in the conference agenda as "general election".




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