UK's Brown defends record amid gloomy polls

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LONDON, Nov 25 (Reuters) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown defended his handling of the economy after his Labour government received a double dose of bad news in opinion polls today that saw its popularity plunging.

The polls showed that Brown, who took over from Tony Blair in June after 10 years as finance minister, had been hurt by a banking debacle and Britain's biggest ever identity fraud crisis.

Brown, who just two months ago had been contemplating calling an election two years earlier than he needed to, urged disillusioned voters to take a long-term view.

''You always have events to deal with. Sometimes these are decisions that you have to make where you have to react to events in other parts of the world or events over which you have no control yourself,'' Brown said.

''The question at the end of the day is that people should take a long-term view of what you are trying to achieve,'' Brown told BBC Television at the Commonwealth summit he is attending in Uganda.

Two months ago, Brown's ruling Labour Party enjoyed a 12 percentage point lead over the opposition Conservatives.

Today it was wiped out in a News of the World opinion poll -- they were both running neck and neck on 38 percent.

The poll also gave Conservative leader David Cameron an eight percentage point lead over the prime minister -- he was on 46 percent compared to 38 percent for Brown.

Another poll in the Sunday Telegraph suggested that 50 percent of voters were dissatisfied with finance minister Alistair Darling.

The government's popularity has evaporated after mortgage lender Northern Rock was hit by Britain's first run on a bank in 140 years and the revelation that almost half the country's population could potentially become identity fraud victims.

Britain's tax authority admitted that the records of 25million people had gone astray on two missing computer discs.

Brown insists the economy is not in for a rough ride -- which could torpedo his long-term electoral prospects.

The cautious Scot said yessterday the global credit crunch would hit the US and European economies, but said Britain could steer a stable course through the financial turbulence.

''There is absolutely no doubt that the American economy now will slow. It will have an effect on the European economy over these next few months,'' Brown told a news conference on the sidelines of the 53-nation Commonwealth summit.

Brown, seeking to steady Labour nerves after the worst week of his premiership, said: ''What I'm saying about Britain is that it's possible for us, having taken the right decisions on monetary policy ... to steer a course of stability through these difficult times.'' Reuters SYU GC1537

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