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KAI RYSSDAL: These are dark days for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. During the 10 years that Brown ran the Exchequer — the Treasury Department, basically — for Tony Blair, he could do almost no wrong. Home prices soared. Unemployment plummeted. But that all changed when he got the top job last summer.
Today, Brown’s reputation for economic competence is in tatters. His party has just suffered a crushing defeat in a special Parliamentary election. And even some of his supporters are calling for his head.
From London, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports.
STEPHEN BEARD: Edward Timpson won yesterday’s special election for the conservatives. He has no doubts about why he snatched what had been a safe Labour seat. Here’s what he told his supporters:
EDWARD TIMPSON: You have sent a message loud and clear that Gordon Brown just does not get it and the government needs to change.
Britain’s Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown insists he does get it. After yesterday’s defeat, he acknowledged the economic worries of the British people.
GORDON BROWN: We have a problem because of rising oil prices, with food prices, with gas and electricity prices. The message of the British public is clear and unequivocal: They want us to address these challenges. And I believe that I can do so.
Most of the public does not. Three-quarters think he’s not up to the job of steering the U.K. through its current economic slowdown. His reputation has been shattered by
many setbacks. Among them the run on the British bank Northern Rock last fall.
Brown is often accused of dithering. Graham Stringer, a Labour member of Parliament, says his cabinet colleagues have got to turf him out as party leader:
GRAHAM STRINGER: I think now the responsibility is up to some senior members of the cabinet. Actually to say, “Things are going very badly wrong. We want to win the next general election.” And put themselves forward to be selected as the leader of the Labour Party.
When he was finance chief, Gordon Brown claimed full credit for the boom. Now there’s a slowdown, he’s blaming it on the global economy. But increasingly the public, and some members of his own party, are blaming him.
In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.