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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2007, 13:07 GMT
Brown's Christmas cheer
Analysis
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Ask people which is the most depressing time of the year and the answer will often be "Christmas".

Gordon Brown
The prime minister offered a Christmas message

And with talk of a global economic recession looming and the domestic economy facing a period of austerity, this midwinter is beginning to look particularly bleak.

So, understandably, Gordon Brown was eager lift the gloom before the Christmas break got into full swing.

And his recipe? Mince pies, reassuring words and Alistair Darling - despite the snowy hair, perhaps not the most likely Santa figure.

In a pre-Christmas press conference - at which the mince pies were handed out to journalists (paid for by the PM himself, he insisted) - Mr Brown and his chancellor sought to send out a simple message: "don't worry, it will all be alright".

They did not add "but it might hurt a bit", although that was implicit in their message about taking difficult but necessary decisions.

Christmas message

They claimed that, thanks to the decisions they have made over the past months and years, Britain was better placed than most countries to weather any global storms.

Both defended their handling of the Northern Rock affair, and insisted Britain was not the only country to have been hit by the US sub-prime market crisis.

But they were careful not to rule out the possibility of nationalising the bank at some point in the future.

Alistair Darling
Mr Darling wanted to reassure over the economy
When pushed over his Christmas message and new year resolution, Mr Brown declared they were: "To focus on the long term challenges and what matters to the people of this country."

And he repeated his refrain that, while Harold Macmillan said it was "events" that defined prime ministers, he believed it was the way PMs reacted to and handled those events that mattered.

"People know when a problem arises we will deal with it and we will deal with it even if that means taking difficult decisions," he said.

Recent events that had grabbed headlines would quickly be forgotten, he suggested, while people would want to see a government doing the right things for the long term.

Front foot

It was Gordon Brown doing what he believes he does best - being Mr Solid, Mr Dependable.

The question, though, is whether recent events have suggested he no longer has the firm grip he was once famous for and whether he has succeeded in restoring the trust in government apparently lost under Tony Blair's premiership.

The prime minister is said to be planning a bit of a re-launch in the new year to put his government back onto the front foot.

This was clearly intended to set the mood for that - and to say as clearly as he possibly could "don't panic".



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Gordon Brown's mince pies provide festive cheer



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