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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: It's practically a truism of political life. You preside over a buoyant economy you don't suffer at the polls. But British Finance Secretary Gordon Brown might disprove that adage. He's the man many expect to be the country's next Prime Minister. Stephen Beard reports on the first full day of the ruling Labour Party's annual conference.


STEPHEN BEARD: This week Prime Minister Tony Blair begins his long goodbye.

He's addressing his party conference for the last time. He'll step down from office within a year.

But his likely successor, Gordon Brown, may be disappointed if he's hoping for a smooth transition. Even though the British economy has boomed under Brown, the Finance Chief is not popular with the British voters.

According to the latest poll only 27 percent think he'll be a good replacement for Tony Blair.

It's not the economy that matters here says analyst Andrew Hilton. This is personal.

ANDREW HILTON: Blair is sunny. Brown is dark, brooding, negative — somebody that is much harder to warm to than the Prime Minister.

Personalities matter most, he says, because the economy has been performing very well since long before Labour came to power. The voters take a buoyant economy for granted.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.