Gordon Brown makes maiden speech as Labour party leader

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown planned an ambitious first speech as Labour party leader Monday, setting out a decade-long domestic agenda - a program he hopes will see him match Tony Blair's 10 years in office.

Brown, who became Britain's leader 12 weeks ago, plans to set out a raft of major policies as he takes center stage at his party's annual convention for the first time, ending a decade spent in Blair's long shadow.

Brown's strong standing in opinion polls has encouraged speculation that he will call an early election, perhaps next month, to seek his own, five-year mandate and increase Labour's majority in Parliament. Brown refuses to join in the speculation.

"My focus is totally on the concerns of the country and that is how it will be. I will keep my focus on the concerns of the country," Brown said Monday morning in an interview with GMTV. Brown is not obliged to call an election until 2010.

He told party elders Sunday he planned fresh reforms of public services and a focus on education, aiming to compete with the emerging economies of China and India.

"I know that we must go much further, be bolder and more confident if we are to unleash the talents of all and make Britain the place it can be," Brown wrote in a letter Sunday to his party's executive committee.

Brown, who arrived Sunday for the four-day rally, has confidently faced a string of crises since replacing Blair, deftly handling attempted terror attacks, record floods and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

"Recent months have shown, both as a government and as a party, we have to respond to events as they happen," Brown wrote in his letter. "But it is in the scale of our long-term ambitions and our determination to achieve them that we define ourselves."

Advisers said the letter revealed Brown's likely future election manifesto and set out the themes of his Monday speech - improving public services, handling globalization, tackling terrorism, responding to an aging society, climate change and helping young families.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband told a fringe meeting in a crowded church late Sunday that after 10 years of Blair, Brown's Labour could hold power for another decade.

"The second wave of New Labour needs to be even better than the first, we should be proud of the fact that this country is richer, faster and more confident, but we should also say there is more to do," Miliband told delegates.

Brown's speech "won't be the last step on our journey toward the good society in Britain, but it will be a vital step on our journey," Labour's election coordinator, Douglas Alexander, told the same fringe meeting.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, a Labour stalwart and architect of Blair's rise to power, said Brown had seamlessly grasped the ex-leader's mantle.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova