No general election likely in 2008: British PM

(France24) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in an interview broadcast Sunday that a general election was unlikely to be called next year, as he defended his decision not to call a vote this year.

Brown told BBC television that he had not been scared off calling a vote next month after opinion polls this week showed that his governing Labour Party's lead had been slashed by the main opposition Conservative Party.

He had considered the possibility of an election, he said, but decided it was better to give voters time to see his long-term "vision" for the country in action.

Asked by the interviewer if he could now rule out a poll in either early or late 2008, Brown said: "It's not likely that we'll have an election... not likely this year, whatever the dates you were suggesting."

Pressed on whether he was not considering an election "for a long time to come", the prime minister replied: "I think it's very unlikely that this will happen in the next period.

"I think the important thing is that we get on with the business of change in this country because people do want change and I am responding to that demand."

The interview with Brown was conducted at his official Downing Street residence in central London Saturday. In it, he said he had decided not to call an election for next month, despite widespread speculation that he would.

His announcement came after an ICM/News of the World poll of 83 key marginal seats, which suggested that the Conservatives were six points ahead and a vote on those results would have seen Labour lose its majroity in parliament.

Two other newspaper polls put the Tories ahead of Labour , attributing the reverse to leader David Cameron's well-received party conference speech Wednesday and headline-grabbing tax reform proposals.

Cameron accused Brown of a " humilitating " climbdown , while the leader of the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell, said Brown allowed the election speculation to run riot and done nothing to stop it.

Reaction to Brown's decision was overwhelmingly negative Sunday. The Mail on Sunday newspaper headlined its article on the issue "Brown Bottles It", using the slang term for a loss of nerve at the last moment.

Brown rejected opposition accusations that he had put party politics above the national interest, saying he had a "duty" to consider the calls for an early election.

He said he could have called an early election based on "competence", after he was widely seen to have responded well to a series of recent crises, including failed car bomb attacks, floods and foot and mouth disease.

Labour would have won at the ballot box "today, next week or weeks after", he said, adding that opinion polls were always volatile at the party conference season.

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