BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 15:01 GMT
Brown's welfare re-launch
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Gordon Brown will not want his big CBI speech billed as a re-launch or a fightback - but it is bound to be portrayed as that.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown has unveiled fresh welfare plans
It comes after a dreadful few weeks since his decision not to call a snap general-election.

Those weeks have seen Northern Rock, the data discs fiasco and, now, fresh party funding revelations. And it has all ended up with Mr Brown back to where Tony Blair was in his final days.

That is, he is struggling to gain any forward political momentum, is suffering in the polls and is constantly having to shrug off "worst-week-ever" stories and insist he is engaged in business as usual.

Meanwhile, the public mood appears depressed, with talk of a looming economic downturn and troubled times ahead - and England's performance on the football field hasn't helped lift the gloom.

However, it is during such times that voters have traditionally looked for solid, trustworthy and steady leadership - just the qualities Gordon Brown has built his reputation on and just the things that have been questioned in the wake of the recent crises.

So it is no surprise that he went to the CBI conference determined to offer the old, rock steady Brown with reassurances there will be no relaxation of his grip on the economy but a new focus on fitting Britain for the new, global challenges.

Familiar refrain

It is, perhaps, the closest he has got to a vision - making Britain "a model, indeed a beacon, to the world for stability and progress".

Job offers
Jobless will be required to train or lose benefits

He also pitched in a few long term policies on the expansion of Heathrow, carbon emissions, nuclear power and public services.

And, significantly, he unveiled some controversial proposals on welfare reform, with new rules which will ultimately see those refusing to take up training losing their benefits.

In return for this pretty hard-nosed approach, he has offered a carrot which will end the current system that sees claimants losing housing benefits if they study for more than 16 hours a week.

It sounds like another familiar refrain of the sort which used to come from both his predecessor and Tory leaders. But, it is stressed, this time things really will change.

Front foot

Whether it amounts to "leaving behind the old policies of yesterday" - seen by some as another attempt to draw a line under the Blair years - is something many in his own party will undoubtedly question.

They will see it as an extension of just the sort of welfare reforms Tony Blair advocated.

But Mr Brown no doubt wants to be seen as the man who had the strength and grit to actually put these tough measures into practice.

Ultimately, of course, it matters little what all this is called or what has motivated the campaign - so long as it works.

If focus switches away from Mr Brown's recent troubles and moves onto new welfare policy and his steady hand once again reassures voters, he may well get back onto the front foot.

Brown outlines 'long-term' plans
26 Nov 07 |  UK Politics
Tories demand new discs statement
25 Nov 07 |  UK Politics
Darling's role 'nearly untenable'
25 Nov 07 |  UK Politics

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific