Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 17:27 UK

Brown says economy is sole focus

Gordon Brown says he has set the right long-term course

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he understands people's fears over the economy and insisted that keeping it on track was his "sole focus".

"We are on the side of home owners, business and individuals," he said.

As in past crises, ministers would do "everything in our power to keep the economy moving forward", he said.

He spoke as a poll suggested 68% lack confidence in him handling the economic crisis - and the Tories said his economic reputation was "in tatters".

I think with Gordon Brown, what you've got is a pretty serious person who thinks very deeply about decisions and is also a man of conviction
Hazel Blears
Communities Secretary

Mr Brown will travel to the US this week to meet finance chiefs and discuss the global crisis.

In a visit to east London, alongside Labour's London mayor candidate Ken Livingstone, he said: "This government is aware of the insecurities people feel...

"We are going to continue, as we did when faced with difficult decisions in 1998 and 2004, to do everything in our power to keep the economy moving forward."

He said the UK had been through difficult times in the past and he was "utterly satisfied" that he was taking the right steps.

"We are the only economy of the major economies that has continued to grow without a major recession in the last 10 years," he added.

The prime minister has faced difficulties on a number of fronts over recent days, with the decision to axe the 10p starting tax rate criticised by many Labour MPs and a rebellion expected over plans to extend the limit for detaining terror suspects without charge.

Conviction

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears rejected the suggestion of splits within the cabinet, saying it was more "cooperative" than under Tony Blair.

"I've heard all these stories about people in the cabinet disagreeing... I've seen more joined-up working. There's much more integrated policy making now than I have seen before."

At the root of the problem is the failure of the government's economic policy
George Osborne
Shadow chancellor

She defended Mr Brown's performance, saying he was "a pretty serious person who thinks very deeply about decisions and is also a man of conviction".

"It's difficult times for government. It's difficult times in the country," Ms Blears told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

At a press conference with Turkey's foreign affairs minister, Foreign Secretary David Miliband dismissed suggestions it was time to replace Mr Brown.

He said: "Gordon Brown was the right man to become prime minister last year and is the right man to lead the Labour Party this year."

'Sorrow'

However, Labour MP Graham Stringer, who is among those opposed to the abolition of the 10p income tax rate, said: "There is no doubt that people's expectations were extremely high when Gordon became PM and I think it's those high expectations not being realised that has disappointed.

"And that comes over. It's sorrow, more than anger, with Gordon."

He added: "We need to change the mood music - and we really need to be on people's side."

Shadow chancellor George Osborne blamed the present economic crisis on Mr Brown, in a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank.

"At the root of the problem is the failure of the government's economic policy," he said.

Mr Osborne said Mr Brown had "rested his claim to competence on three pillars - stability, prudence and competitiveness".

"Instead, after a decade of worldwide growth, we have ended up with housing boom followed by bust, spending followed by debt, and a country finding it more and more difficult to compete," he said.

Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Vince Cable said not enough had been done to avert the banks crisis.

He said: "Soaring inflation is further squeezing the budgets of families already struggling to make ends meet.

"The government's tax grab has only served to exacerbate our mounting economic problems.

"Ministers must now act to ease the tax burden on the lower paid and intervene to ensure that spiralling debt costs do not lead to a recession."

Meanwhile a Financial Times/Harris opinion poll suggests 68% of voters are "not confident at all" in Labour's ability to handle the crisis.

The survey of 1,122 people in the UK was conducted online between 27 March and 8 April.




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