Tough Times for Britain's Prime Minister

It is worth noting that in Britain you don't have to go to the public to be chosen prime minister. As long as your political party is in power, all you need is the support of the majority of you party's members of Parliament. So when prime minister Blair resigned, the Labour Party, with no one else groomed, had little choice but to choose Brown as new prime minister.

So far, so good for Brown. But things quickly went down hill. He publicly toyed with the idea of calling a flash election. That's what British government officials do when they think they can win one now, but maybe not later. But he dithered, and dithered. Finally, Brown backed down from a showdown with the Conservatives, and lost face big time.

The next major debacle came with the collapse, then government rescue, of Northern Rock, Britain's fifth-largest mortgage lender, which went bankrupt amid the global credit crisis. The Brown government was widely criticized for not acting decisively enough, soon enough. And if the prime minister thought he could dodge that political bullet because he is no longer in charge of the Treasury, he was wrong. Brown was criticized by the influential Economist magazine with this broadside: "As chancellor, he introduced a badly designed regulation system, with the result that nobody was really in charge of overseeing the banks when the credit crunch hit."

But what stings even more, and hurts at the polls, is the widespread unhappiness among Labourites. "He's an idiot for letting our economy run into the ground," Marcus Newton, 32, a furniture fitter and Labour voter, told ABC News.

Then there is the Brown chemistry and political character, or, as many commentators believe, the lack of both. It may be grossly unfair, but Brown suffers a severe image problem. He is frequently referred to in the media as dour, boring and awkward during the kind of public appearances at which Blair seems to flourish with ease.

"He's got no gumption; he's willy-nilly, " carpenter Kernaghan said.

The other media indictments against him include indecisiveness and lack of commitment. When faced with a civil war within his own party over his elimination of a tax break for poor Britons, Brown, who said he would not retreat, retreated.

But Brown seemed to be trying to swim in quicksand. The more he tried to explain himself and his changing policies based, he said, on listening to people's objections, the deeper he sank.

On May 1, Britain held local elections for hundreds of city council seats and mayors. It was a disaster for the Labour Party, and for Brown. Labour lost its majority grip on neighborhood power across the nation, and the Conservative Party emerged the big winners. Brown blamed much of the Labour knockout on "difficult economic circumstances and claimed that measures he had put into place would become clear "over the next few months."

The Guardian's Hoggart said, "If the economy recovers by 2010, he could hang in there and win. But if we are in a recession, Brown is gone."

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