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Labour party to elect Brown as leader

A special Labour leadership conference in Manchester will announce the name of senior politician Gordon Brown as next British PM.

world Updated: Jun 24, 2007 15:10 IST

After 13 years, the Labour party will have a new leader on Sunday. A special Labour leadership conference in Manchester will announce the name of senior politician Gordon Brown, who will then take over as the next British Prime Minister on Wednesday.

Brown's crowning as the next Labour leader comes amidst higher ratings in polls. Over the last few weeks and days, Brown 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. Brown visited India in January.

At the conference in Manchester, the deputy leader of the party will also be announced from among six candidates: cabinet members Hilary Benn, Alan Johnson, Hazel Blears and Peter Hain, and justice minister Harriet Harman and left-wing backbencher Jon Cruddas.

The deputy leader, 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.

The result of the leadership contest - in which Brown is the only candidate - is expected to be formally announced at 3 pm GMT on Sunday (2030 IST). Among those in the audience will be Blair, who is already being advised by various commentators and experts on what he should do as an 'ex-prime minister'.

After Brown is formally announced the new Labour leader, he will then spell out his vision for a Labour government which could stay in office until 2010, by which time he has to call a general election.

Blair is scheduled to drive to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday to tender his resignation as prime minister. The Queen will then be expected to invite Brown to form the next government.

Brown has been among the first British politicians to recognize 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 Brown 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 that was, in some ways, overshadowed by the Shilpa Shetty-"Big Brother" brouhaha.

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 PhD 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 a professional façade as a workaholic, serious and sombre politician, Brown's record in office has been hailed across party lines. Called the 'Iron Chancellor', Brown 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."

Before visiting India in January, he said: "I am looking forward to visiting India with a view of understanding how our two countries can work even more closely than they already are. Our connections with India as a party go back many years and our relations are deep and so profound."

First Published: Jun 24, 2007 15:04 IST