UK's Brown takes double-digit poll lead

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LONDON, Sep 29 (Reuters) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a double-digit lead over the opposition Conservatives that could tempt him into calling an early general election, two opinion polls showed today.

Less than 100 days after taking over from Tony Blair, Brown is spending the weekend closeted with advisers weighing up what could be the most crucial decision of his political career.

If he loses, he would be one of Britain's shortest-serving prime ministers, but a decisive victory would give him a five-year mandate and torpedo the Conservatives for a fourth election in a row.

The Conservatives, heading to the northern seaside resort of Blackpool for their annual party conference, have challenged Brown to call an election.

''We are ready for (an election) whenever he wants to. We've been clear from the start that he has no mandate and the sooner a general election comes the better because we do think the country is ready for change,'' a Conservative official said.

Brown, who does not have to call an election until 2010, was given encouragement by the two opinion polls.

The Daily Telegraph YouGov poll gave the cautious Scotsman a hefty 11 percentage point lead over Cameron -- Labour were on 43 percent compared to 32 per cent for the Conservatives. The centrist Liberal Democrats garnered just 15 per cent.

The paper said Cameron said ''will have to produce the political equivalent of a dozen rabbits out of a magician's hat if he is to revive his early promise as a prime minister in waiting''.

A Populus poll in The Times, taken after the Labour Party's annual conference this week, also gave Brown a clear lead -- 41 percent for Labour, 31 per cent for the Conservatives. the Liberal Democrats trailed on 17 per cent.

The Times said all recent polls have pointed in the same direction: ''Gordon Brown and Labour are now in a commanding position, better than he can possibly have dreamt when he became prime minister only three months ago.'' Despite predictions that Brown would swing the Labour Party to the left after he took over from Blair, he has been reaching out to right-wing voters.

In a fiercely patriotic speech to the Labour conference, Brown said ''Britain'' or ''British'' 80 times -- and his pledge to crack down on crime and binge drinking were aimed at the middle classes, or so-called ''Middle England'', who traditionally vote Conservative.

He has concentrated on housing, health and education while moving to reduce Britain's military involvement in the unpopular Iraq war.

His assured handling of crises ranging from attempted bombings to floods won voter approval.

But his government was sharply criticised over Britain's worst bank run for generations, which saw crowds of investors lining up to withdraw their savings from Northern Rock bank when it was hit by a global credit squeeze.

Brown could also be set on a collision course with the trade unions over his squeeze on public sector pay rises.

REUTERS SW ND1312

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