Brown promises new style, hints at 'shift' over Iraq
May 11, 2007 - 8:08:59 PM

London, May 11 - Gordon Brown staked his claim to be Britain's next prime minister Friday by offering a 'new leadership for a new time' that would bring changes in style and policy ranging from domestic issues to Iraq.

In a speech to party activists in London to launch his seven-week campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party, and as a result prime minister, Brown politely but firmly distanced himself from the policies of the Blair era which is coming to an end next month.

'I do not believe politics is about celebrity,' he said in a thinly veiled rebuke of the flamboyant leadership style of Blair, who Thursday announced that he would leave office on June 27.

He preferred content over presentation, and would 'listen and learn' to achieve a 'shared sense of national purpose.'

Brown, 56, explicitly praised Blair's leadership of 'courage and vision' over the past 10 years, but said: 'As the world changes, so too our priorities must change and for us the way we must govern must change too.'

His intention to 'listen and learn' extended to Iraq, Brown said, adding that he accepted that 'mistakes had been made' over Iraq.

He said that Britain would 'keep its obligation' to the Iraqi people, but at the same time shift the emphasis of its policy over Iraq.

'I do believe that economic development and political reconciliation need greater emphasis in future months,' said Brown, adding that 'too many people' in Iraq did not have a stake in the economic future of their country.

He would visit countries in the region and 'listen' to what British army leaders in Iraq had to tell him.

Al Qaeda terrorism, he suggested, could not be defeated by military means alone.

'With the challenge of terrorism unlike anything that we have faced, the people of Britain want us strong in defence and security, succeeding not only militarily but also opening a new front, working with our allies to win the battle of hearts and minds at home and abroad.'

Earlier, Blair had given his full backing to Brown, a long ime political ally with whom, however, relations have not always been easy.

He was convinced that Brown would make a 'great prime minister' and lead the country with 'distinction,' Blair said.

But despite the mutual praise, it was clear from Brown's manifesto Friday that he would be a very different leader, commentators said.

Brown, in a clear reference to Blair's alleged 'presidential style' of government, said he would make 'government more open and more accountable to parliament.'

This would, he said, be especially the case in 'decisions about peace and war, in public appointments and in a new ministerial code of conduct.'

'I want to lead a government humble enough to know its place, where I will always strive to be - and that's on people's side,' said Brown.

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