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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 September 2007, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
Brown 'not ruling out snap poll'
Gordon Brown
The prime minister's week is likely to be dominated by election talk
Gordon Brown has refused to rule out a snap general election, insisting he is simply "getting on with the job".

"My focus is entirely on the issues affecting the country," the prime minister said on the first day of the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth.

Meanwhile, an opinion poll for the Sun has put Labour eight points ahead of the Tories.

The Ipsos-Mori poll of 1,009 adults put Labour on 42%; its lead increased from 5% in a simlar poll a month ago.

The poll, carried out by Ipsos-Mori on September 20-22, found 42% of those questioned favoured Labour, compared with 34% for the Conservatives and 14% for the Lib Dems.

'Clear choice'

On Saturday, Labour's election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander said the party was ready for a general election whenever Mr Brown chose to call one.

In addition to medals and honours and parades, we've got to show financially that we reward them [the armed forces] properly
Gordon Brown

According to the Observer, Labour is ready to call an election as late as November. Speculation had previously centred on 25 October - the last possible date before the clocks go back.

Asked whether all his advisers were telling him to call an early election, Mr Brown said: "No. I'm actually getting on with the job."

Challenged that he could end speculation by ruling out an early poll, Mr Brown replied: "There's been speculation all the time but I think people know that over these summer months I just got on with the job."

But he added that "when the time comes" voters would face a "clear choice".

"I think the choice is pretty clear between a government that is determined at all times to maintain the stability and growth of the British economy - and I think we have proved over these last 10 years we can do it and will continue to do so - as against an opposition which, I detect, wants to cut taxes, raise spending, cut borrowing, put the stability of the economy at risk."

'Clean hospitals'

On public services, Mr Brown said Labour wanted to create "a health service that is not just accessible to all, but is personal to each of us".

This big, gimmicky initiative [Labour plans to 'deep clean' hospitals] unfortunately tells us everything that is wrong with a centralised system
Vince Cable,
Lib Dem deputy leader

NHS patients should be able to get the GP they wanted and be able to attend a clean hospital at the time they wanted, he said.

On the Northern Rock banking crisis, Mr Brown rejected suggestions the government had known early on about its problems but had failed to act in time to prevent a run on the bank.

He described Mervyn King as a "brilliant" Governor of the Bank of England, but declined to discuss whether he would be reappointed when his five-year term of office came to an end next year.

Turning to foreign policy, the prime minister said Britain would increasingly take an "over watch" role in Iraq as the country's own security forces took charge.

Zimbabwe sanctions

He denied the Americans had been disappointed by his decision to withdraw British troops from Basra Palace.

"General Petraeus had said that British troops were doing exactly what he hoped would be possible in other parts of the world," Mr Brown told Andrew Marr.

Mr Brown also acknowledged that more could be done to show appreciation to soldiers who have served overseas.
HAVE YOUR SAY
A snap election would just be there to pander his ego
Scoob Gbs

"In addition to medals and honours and parades, we've got to show financially that we reward them properly.

"That's why we've introduced this allowance for being on duty which is essentially to defray any income tax that they would have to pay. That's why we continue to look at more that we can do."

Mr Brown has threatened not to attend a Europe-Africa summit in Portugal in December if Zimbabwe's President Mugabe is there.

On the subject of Zimbabwe, he said: "We are prepared and are considering stepping up our sanctions", adding it should be done in combination with the European Union.

'Earn the right'

Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it was "not arrogant" to talk about Labour being in power for another decade.

"It's a fact, it's not a question of arrogance or not. I'm not saying we're destined to write ourselves in the history books.

"That's what we'll have to earn. We have to earn the right.

"But there's no question in my mind. We've had 10 years of New Labour, in government, we've now got to look forward to a second decade."

Meanwhile, Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls - seen as one of Mr Brown's closest political allies - seemed to suggest it might be too early to call an election.

It's important that the public are allowed to see the political choice before you make decisions about these things
Ed Balls,
Children, Schools and Families Secretary

He said: "If the public simply thought this was a political calculation about when to call the election, I think they would rightly stand back and say 'hang on a second, what we want to know is what is the nature of the choice, the different divisions?'

Mr Balls told BBC Radio 4 that the party would use its conference to set out policies to "deliver public services for all".

"It's important that the public are allowed to see the political choice before you make decisions about these things," he said.

Earlier, the government announced a "deep clean" of all NHS hospitals in England, to tackle the spread of infections such as "superbug" MRSA.

Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable said Labour's centralised approach was not the best way to tackle the "superbug" problem.

"This big, gimmicky initiative unfortunately tells us everything that is wrong with a centralised system," Mr Cable told BBC News 24.

Asked about a snap election, Mr Cable said he thought there was a "strong likelihood" Mr Brown would go to the country next month.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Gordon Brown speaks to Andrew Marr



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