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Brown takes over as Labour leader

Following his formal election as the leader of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown will take over as next British prime minister on Wednesday.

world Updated: Jun 24, 2007 22:04 IST

Gordon Brown was on Sunday formally elected as the leader of the Labour Party - 13 years after he conceded the party leadership to Tony Blair that led to an uneasy relationship between him as the chancellor and Blair as the prime minister.

The crowning of Brown as the Labour leader means that he will take over as next British prime minister on Wednesday, when Blair is scheduled to drive down to the Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation after a record decade in office.

His confirmation as the Labour leader was a formality after he remained the only candidate in the leadership contest. The confirmation was made at a special Labour conference in Manchester.

It was also announced that Justice Minister Harriet Harman was elected the deputy leader of the party. He, however, will not necessarily become the next deputy prime minister in place of the incumbent, John Prescott.

The speculation is that Brown may opt for veteran Jack Straw, currently his campaign manager for the leadership campaign, for the job.

Brown's election as the Labour leader comes amidst higher ratings in polls. Over the last few weeks and days, he has considerably enhanced his public image by travelling around the country and appearing on special shows on television where he succinctly put forth his vision for Britain.

Among the key themes driving Brown's vision, as articulated in most of his speeches inside and outside the House of Commons, are the challenges and opportunities posed by the growing economies of India and China. He visited India in January.

Among those in the audience was Blair, who is already being advised by various commentators and experts on what he should do as 'ex-prime minister'.

Brown has been among the first British politicians to recognise the opportunities and challenges presented by India to Britain's economy. India figures prominently in his interaction with the press, particularly its growing role in global issues such as climate change.

As he begins his passage to 10 Downing Street, India and Britain appear set for a new phase in their relationship in which economy, trade and business will become the predominant buzzwords.

A political heavyweight in the Labour party, Brown, 56, will not really have to exert much to deal with Indian leaders, in particular, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He developed a rapport with Manmohan Singh during the January visit.

Brown and Manmohan Singh share a strong academic background in economics: both have doctorates in the subject, Brown from the Edinburgh University and Manmohan Singh from Oxford. Manmohan Singh served as India's finance minister before becoming the prime minister, while Brown has trodden the same path.

Brown's Ph.D. thesis was titled "Labour's struggle to establish itself as the alternative to the Conservatives (in the early part of the 20th century)". For a while, he lectured at the Edinburgh and Caledonian universities, and also had a brief stint as a journalist at Scottish TV in the early 1980s.

Brown, a Scot, was elected to parliament as a Labour MP for Dunfermline East in 1983, and became the opposition spokesman on trade and industry in 1985. He was the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1987 to 1989 and then Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, before becoming Shadow Chancellor in 1992.

After the sudden death of Labour leader John Smith in May 1994, Brown was one of those tipped as a potential party leader. It has long been rumoured that a deal was struck between Blair and Brown at the Granita restaurant in Islington, in which Blair promised to give Brown control of economic policy in return for Brown not standing against him in the leadership election.

Brown has headed the Treasury since 1997, and in June 2004, he became Britain's longest continuously serving Chancellor of the Exchequer since the 1820s, overtaking David Lloyd George who served for seven years and 43 days between 1908 and 1915.

With an image of a workaholic, serious and sombre politician, Brown's record in office has been hailed across party lines. Called the 'Iron Chancellor', he has won widespread praise for having secured Britain's economic stability.

Brown has been a regular in meetings of the Labour Friends of India, a lobby within the Labour party comprising MPs, ministers and party leaders. At a recent meeting of the group, he said: "I value my contacts with India and want to convey my thanks to Labour Friends of India for the constructive and positive role it plays in parliament."

First Published: Jun 24, 2007 21:52 IST