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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 16:33 GMT
Brown's new year blitz
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

First we had the Brown bounce, brought to a premature end by the election that wasn't. Now we have the Brown blitz.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown wants to move on from dark days of last autumn

The prime minister has launched a new year offensive which has already seen him hitting the media more regularly than Britney Spears and promising to be Martini man - available for interview any time, any place, anywhere.

He has appointed a new chief adviser in the shape of communications high-flier Stephen Carter, whose task will be to offer some of the strategic help many believe the prime minister currently lacks.

And over the next few days and weeks Mr Brown will unveil a series of policy initiatives on everything from the NHS to nuclear power.

The aim of all this activity is to draw a line under his annus horribilis, show he is in control of, rather than at the mercy of, events and that he has the fresh ideas to take the country forward while denying the Tories any opportunities to get a distinctive message across.

Much of that will now fall into Mr Carter's lap.

Getting a grip

Mr Brown has faced claims he relies too much on a small group of young advisers and ministers without the experience or strategic abilities to spot trouble ahead or avoid obvious pitfalls.

Stephen Carter
Mr Carter has become Mr Brown's chief adviser
Specifically, it is those advisers who were partly blamed for the non-election disaster and the prime minister's apparent inability to get a grip on subsequent events.

Mr Carter will be expected to bring some heavyweight strategic planning into Downing Street on both the formation and presentation of policy. His writ is expected to run throughout number 10.

Meanwhile, Mr Brown is attempting to reassure people on the economy, which is threatening to cast a black cloud over 2008, with an echo of his pre-Christmas message - in effect, "don't worry, it will be OK".

The image he wants to offer voters is of "Old Reliable", the man they can trust to pilot the country through the hard times ahead with the minimum of pain - although pain there will be, particularly for public sector workers looking for inflation-busting pay rises (including MPs).

On wider policies, he is back to the "I am the change" message which he offered in the early days of his premiership.

All this will, inevitably, look like the latest phase in the Brown re-launch after he ended his own prime ministerial honeymoon period with that election blunder last autumn.

Bad headlines

The prime minister insists that his decision whether or not to call that election was "not as important" as developing policy on the big issues like health, education, energy, transport and housing - all things he is planning to push over coming days and weeks.

David Cameron
Mr Cameron has made the most of PM's bad patch
The truth is, that episode - which saw him accused of allowing, even encouraging, snap election speculation only to then, according to opponents, "bottle it" in the face of bad opinion polls - was hugely important for him.

It entirely changed the political weather, pitching him into a storm of bad headlines and opinion poll setbacks which took the shine off his early days in Downing Street.

The question now is whether he can regain that lost momentum or whether David Cameron can continue capitalising on the change of weather.

The Tory leader has already attempted to match Mr Brown, policy for policy and interview for interview.

He did his health bit a couple of days before the prime minister did his, and then moved on to welfare reform.

Once again, however, these announcements saw claims each was plagiarising the other's policies - the clearest possible sign of just how little room for manoeuvre there is on that crowded centre ground of politics.

Health screening plans unveiled
07 Jan 08 |  UK Politics
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06 Jan 08 |  UK Politics
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Brown hints at nuclear power plan
05 Jan 08 |  UK Politics

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