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Brown puts economic recovery as top priority ahead of election race


Latest update : 2010-03-27

Britain's PM Gordon Brown unveiled key pledges making the country's economic recovery his top priority, in a tight election race as opinion polls showed that the gap between his Labour Party and the opposition Conservatives has narrowed sharply.

AFP - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown put economic recovery at the heart of his battle for re-election Saturday, as he unveiled his Labour party's key pledges for the vote expected within weeks.

Buoyed by opinion polls showing the race between Labour and the opposition Conservatives has narrowed sharply, Brown promised to fight to win as both sides ramped up campaigning ahead of the election expected on May 6.

"When people ask what are my top three priorities for the country, let me tell them -- keeping on the road to recovery, keeping on the road to recovery, keeping on the road to recovery," Brown said in Nottingham, central England.

In a thinly-veiled attack on the Conservatives, he warned of the dangers of taking the wrong decisions as Britain emerges from a deep recession.

"Securing the economic recovery or wrecking it -- that is the choice the country will face in the weeks ahead," the prime minister said.

However, Conservative leader David Cameron hit back, saying the suggestion Labour had done well on the economy was an "insult to people's intelligence".

In a speech delivered in Milton Keynes, north of London, within an hour of Brown's remarks, Cameron said Britain's recession had been longer than most other countries, it had a massive budget deficit and high youth unemployment.

"On their economic record alone, which is what they're running on, they do not deserve to be re-elected," Cameron said.

The Conservatives had been leading Labour by double digits in the opinion polls but in recent months the gap has narrowed to just a few points -- and Brown insisted his party was in the race to win.

"We may be the underdog but we are the people's party and we never give up," the prime minister said, adding: "We have big plans for this country -- and we intend to see them through."

He outlined Labour's five key election pledges: securing the economy, raising family living standards, building a high-tech economy, protecting frontline public services and strengthening fairness in communities.

These include plans to help first-time home buyers, provide broadband Internet access for everyone, protect investment in policing, schools, childcare and the health service, and crack down on anti-social behaviour.

Finance minister Alistair Darling included some of these measures Wednesday in the government's final budget before the election, which Brown is expected to call within days.

Some 33 percent of people questioned for the BBC afterwards said they trusted Brown and Darling most to steer Britain through the downturn, against 27 percent who favoured Cameron and his finance spokesman George Osborne.

However, Cameron warned that Labour's determination to delay cutting the deficit or public spending, for fear of damaging the economic recovery, risked sending Britain into a debt crisis such as that seen in Greece.

"If we don't act, and act soon, the same could happen to us," he said.

The Conservative leader said the government was "completely useless and bankrupt" and, acknowledging it would be a "close fight" to the finish, said his party had just a few weeks to persuade voters they could bring change.

"This is an election we absolutely have to win for the good of our country," Cameron said, adding: "We are ready to fight it whenever he (Brown) is ready to call it."

Date created : 2010-03-27


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