Brown says could have ended poll frenzy sooner

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LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) Gordon Brown conceded today he could have dampened intense speculation about a snap election sooner than he did, but denied his decision not to go to the country was influenced by unfavourable opinion polls.

Brown waited until the weekend to announce there would be no early election, unleashing a torrent of critical media coverage and allowing opposition parties to brand him weak and indecisive.

''Your weekend has been better than mine,'' he ruefully told journalists at his regular monthly media conference.

He said he had always intended to wait until the close of the party conferences to make a decision.

''I could have made it earlier -- perhaps I should have made it earlier -- but I decided that I would make the decision at the end of the party conference season and that is exactly what we did,'' he said.

Brown refused to blame aides for the debacle, which media commentators say has undermined his reputation as a strong leader.

''I take full responsibility for everything that has happened,'' he said. ''I will not put blame to anybody else.

He said he believed the government would have won any election and that MPs in marginal seats were confident of victory.

But he said he wanted more time to set out his ''vision'' for the country after a summer taken up by crisis management of floods, attempted attacks in London and Glasgow, foot and mouth disease and the financial troubles at Northern Rock.

He said it had always been his instinct to wait until the public had had time to judge the impact of new policies announced after he took over from Tony Blair this summer.

Brown denied he had been swayed by the evaporation of a double digit lead over his opponents in weekend polls after a successful conference for the Conservatives.

But Conservative leader David Cameron has accused Brown of treating the public ''like fools''.

Speculation of an early vote had run riot over the past few weeks when polls showed Brown with an 11 per cent lead over the Conservatives.

The government rescheduled business to make an early vote possible, and Brown fuelled the speculation by refusing for weeks to rule it out.

Later today, Brown was due to make a long-awaited statement on Iraq following his flying visit to the country last week, where he announced that 1,000 troops would come home by Christmas.

The trip backfired after it emerged that half of those cuts had already been announced.

Afterwards he is due to meet Labour MPs, many of whom are furious over what they see as the election debacle.

Reuters PD RS1915

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