UK's Brown to promise change amid election fever

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BOURNEMOUTH, England, Sep 24 (Reuters) Gordon Brown, who has refused to rule out calling a snap general election, will promise new policies to create a ''fairer, stronger Britain'' today when he addresses his Labour party's annual conference.

The party faithful will be listening closely for clues to any plans to call an election as early as next month, but Brown is expected to give little away in his first conference appearance as prime minister.

Former finance minister Brown has a lead in opinion polls whose size has surprised his own aides, possibly in response to his handling of a series of crises since he succeeded Tony Blair in June.

An Ipsos-Mori poll published in the Sun tabloid today gave Labour an eight percentage point lead over the opposition Conservatives if there were an election now.

The poll advantage has fuelled speculation Brown could call an election for as early as October. 25, but he has refused to comment on the timing of any vote and an ally has suggested he will want to wait, at least for several months.

In his speech, Brown is expected to set out his vision of the challenges facing Britain and of how Labour needs to change to secure an unprecedented fourth straight term.

In a letter to Labour's governing body at the start of the conference in the southern seaside town of Bournemouth, Brown said the government's policies must be more radical.

''I know that we must go much further, be bolder and more confident if we are to unleash the talents of all and make Britain the place it can be,'' Brown wrote.

He identified six challenges for the next decade, beginning with further changes to public services like hospitals and schools -- into which Labour has poured billions of pounds -- to improve the standard of service.

KEY PRIORITIES He pointed to globalisation, security and terrorism, and changing demographics including immigration as key priorities. Climate change and social breakdown were also major challenges, he wrote.

Brown urged the party to keep pursuing its ambitions ''in order to create a fairer, stronger Britain''.

Labour ministers are surprised at the size of the ''Brown bounce'' and the decline in the fortunes of Conservative Party leader David Cameron in recent weeks.

But they are aware their party needs to renew itself after a decade in power to retain the faith of voters. Anger over the Iraq war and disillusionment with Blair led to a slump in Labour's poll ratings before the handover to Brown.

Brown does not have to call an election until 2010 and ministers are divided over the merits of rushing to the polls now or waiting until 2008 or 2009.

Since he took over, Brown has had to deal with attempted bombings, floods, foot-and-mouth disease and, most recently, a banking crisis.

Thousands queued last week to withdraw their cash from Northern Rock after it fell foul of the credit crunch hitting global markets, but Brown's poll lead held firm although some analysts said changes he made as finance minister had divided and weakened supervision of British banks.

REUTERS AK PM0443

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