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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 12:26 GMT
What to make of Brown's plans?
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Probably the only big surprise in Gordon Brown's first legislative programme was the lack of big surprises.

Queen delivering speech
Queen's speech contained few big surprises
That was always the risk in setting out his programme four months before the big day in the "pre-Queen's speech" speech.

It may have looked innovative at the time, and it carried some advantages for the government in terms of market testing ideas.

But there was always the danger that when the day arrived, instead of appearing sparklingly fresh and visionary, the prime minister's programme would look like rather dog eared old news.

And, at a time when Mr Brown is under pressure from his own side to spell out his long-term vision, that may be a cause for concern amongst some.

That is not to say there aren't some elements of the programme that are new, if not unexpected - on banking controls, for example - but they are not in the big areas many had been prepared for.

Other proposals

There had been speculation the speech would include something big on terrorism, immigration and even party funding.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown is under pressure to offer his vision
But there were no fresh proposals in any of those areas that went much beyond what was either announced in the pre-Queen's speech package or in subsequent ministerial announcements.

Specifically, on terrorism there were no concrete proposals to extend pre-charge detention beyond 28 days, even though it has been signalled the government is ready to risk controversy and seek an extension to 56 days.

Instead there are promises to bring forward other proposals during the year.

What there was included all the bills proposed in that summer statement, covering education, house building, the NHS and so on, all of which the prime minister believes will "respond to the rising aspirations" of the British people.

And it is likely Mr Brown has deliberately chosen a less dramatic, more steady approach to his legislative programme.

He may well believe that his early popularity was based largely on his ability to plough a cautious, and relatively unspectacular furrow - Not Flash, Just Gordon as the advertising slogan goes.

That seems to be the underlying message from the programme and the way it was rolled out over the last four months.

Playing politics

There were, however, expectations that he would not be able to resist the temptation to pull some rabbits from his hat in the way he used to as chancellor.

Armed police
Plans to extend detention may come later

That always delighted his backbenchers and often did enough to seize the headlines and push the opposition onto the back foot.

But that sort of approach would certainly fall under the heading of "flash" and, as the last Budget showed, lead to allegations he was playing politics.

Meanwhile, Mr Brown is also constrained by the fact that a number of the bills are hangovers from the Blair era, making it difficult for him to portray this as entirely the Brown blueprint for the future.

And, thanks to his decision to give lengthy Commons debate to the new EU treaty, he has ensured parliamentary time will be at a premium.

So, the next parliamentary session seems set to be dominated by the rows over the European treaty and demands for a referendum, and perhaps an extension of the 28 day pre-charge detention period.

There will be more to come in those big areas of counter-terrorism and immigration, but many were looking to this statement as the opportunity for the prime minister to be more specific and end qualms over his vision.

Finally, then, it has raised the prospect that Mr Brown will not call a general election any time next year - that he will want one more big Queen's speech in which to set out a truly Brownite agenda for the future.

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