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Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 18:06 UK
Looking back at Brown's first year
By Rajini Vaidyanathan
Newsbeat's political reporter

It's the first anniversary of Gordon Brown's time at Number 10 but he's not had the best of presents to go with it. Labour's come fifth in a by-election to find a new MP to replace Boris Johnson in the seat of Henley. A safe Tory seat, Labour was never expecting to win, but no-one thought they'd do so badly - even the Greens and the BNP got more votes.

Gordon Brown

There were more smiles 12 months ago, when Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair.

Like a typical June, the rain fell, the camping chairs were out and the crowds lined up.

You could have mistaken the setting as a day at Glasto or Wimbledon.

As the rain cleared Gordon Brown told the world's media assembled at Downing Street that he would follow his school motto: "I will try my utmost. This is my promise to all of the people of Britain. And now let the work of change begin."

It all started well. When he first entered Number 10 he was rising high in the polls for the way he handled crises like the floods, bird flu and the attempted terror attacks in London and Glasgow.

Now, it's a very different story. Some polls put him as the most unpopular prime minister ever. Tory rival David Cameron is the bookies favourite to take the keys off PM Brown whenever that next election is.

Comments we've had from listeners on his first anniversary in the job match the mood in the polls.

Jason in Norwich said: "Gordon needs to move to mars for me to gain faith in him."

Greg in Dorset said the "best thing he can do is leave. Never has it been harder or more depressing living and working hard in this country".

Anthony from Northampton told Newsbeat: "I just don't think he should be leading the country. I think he was very good at handling the money but since he stopped doing that so much and let somebody else take it over, he's just not a leader."


Well, many say the turning point was when Gordon Brown decided not to call an early general election in the autumn of 2007.

When he took over from Tony Blair that year there was no need to hold a general election because the Labour party had won power until 2010. But many argued that he should go to the polls to prove he can win an election under his leadership. It was something Newsbeat put to Gordon Brown even before he became prime minister.

We asked him why, if he wanted to get more people engaged in the decision making process, he wouldn't call a general election as soon as he got in?

He replied: "We will have a general election at some point... I think I can prove to your listeners, over the next period of time, that what we are doing to try and improve our education system, the health service... and on issues like the environment, shows that this is a government that continues to act."


But after much speculation about whether to go to the polls in November 2007 the PM decided against it. He admitted he'd thought about it but wanted time to set out his "vision" for the country.

Critics said he was scared that some polls suggested he might lose. It led to claims he'd "bottled it".

It also led to accusations that the PM was a "ditherer" who couldn't make up his mind. Something, again Newsbeat put to him.

"I did the right thing this weekend (not calling the election). I did it on the basis that I wanted to have the chance to put my views on the future of the country before the country but also to show that I was delivering on my vision for the future."


Things seemed to get trickier from then on in. His poll ratings dropped, and he found himself at the receiving end of negative headlines.

The in tray of problems seemed to grow - troubles over the 10p rate of tax, the missing discs containing personal information, and MPs expenses.

Even his colleagues in parliament were keen to take a swipe at his character as well as policy.

Liberal Democrat Vince Cable commented on what he thought was the prime minister's "remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean".


Some things like the credit crunch and Northern Rock have been out of his control, but even on those his critics say that as chancellor for ten years he could've done more to prevent the situation now.

The handling of the economy is one of the biggest concerns for Newsbeat listeners.

Many say they'll judge the PM on the way he handles the rising cost of living.

Lee in Walsall said he'd vote for Brown if he lowered fuel and road tax prices.

Chris Baker texted saying: "Labour will lose due to cost of living increase. My fuel costs me 50% more than four years ago."

Gordon Brown doesn't have to call an election until 2010. He'll want to prove that he can steer the economy in that time and make sure he get those keys back to Number 10. But some on his own side are starting to doubt that.

That's not troubling the PM too much. A few weeks ago we asked him whether he ever got upset or hurt about the way things have gone? He replied: "I think you've got to get up the next day and get on with the job and continue to do what you think is right for the country."

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