England - Prime Minister Gordon Brown will promise Tuesday to clean up British politics, get tough on crime and heal the economy, in a blizzard of policy moves aimed at avoiding a crushing election defeat next year.

Polls point to a big win for the opposition center-right Conservatives -- which would be the first change of government in Britain since 1997 -- and there appears little Brown can do or say to reverse his party's fortunes.

Public opinion of the 58-year-old Scot, who took over from Tony Blair in 2007, has sunk in the last year as Brown has been damaged by a scandal over politicians' expenses, rising unemployment and a perception that he is a ditherer.

He will address his ruling Labor party at its annual conference in the southern English city of Brighton Tuesday hoping to change that in a speech that will be televised live.

Aides said Brown will argue his decisions have taken the sting out of the recession and put Britain on track to economic recovery. He also plans tough laws on bankers' bonuses, and binding commitments to cut the record budget deficit.

He will try to assuage voter anger over the expenses scandal that damaged all of Britain's main political parties and will counter opposition charges that British society is falling apart, with measures to tackle youth crime and binge drinking.

We will not stand by and see the lives of the lawful majority disrupted by the behavior of the lawless minority, Brown will say, according to extracts from his speech released in advance.

The decent, hard-working majority are getting ever more angry -- rightly so -- with the minority who will talk about their rights but never accept their responsibilities.


The run-up to the crucial party conference season could not have gone worse for Brown after his trip to last week's G20 summit -- normally a stage on which he shines -- was soured by rumors that U.S. President Barack Obama had snubbed him.

Scenting blood, the British media turned to unsubstantiated claims his health was failing and polls showing the Conservatives were way out in front.

A series of opinion polls show Labor suffering under Brown, with the latest putting it down in third place for the first time since 1982, pollster Ipsos Mori said.

The survey put the main Conservative opposition party on 36 percent, the left-leaning Liberal Democrats on 25 percent and Labor on 24 percent.

The atmosphere in Brighton, a seaside resort south of London, has been predictably subdued as many in the Labor party contemplate life out of government.

But business minister and ex-European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson Monday sought to convince the party all was not lost, with a rousing speech saying the election was still up for grabs.

It was a speech that someone needed to make, said Ruairi Tobin, a Labor activist from Swindon in western England. We need to fight and I'm not sure it is a case of going down fighting.
Political analysts say the result of the election, which must be called by June 2010, is not a foregone conclusion, pointing to several outcomes ranging from a big Conservative win to the outside chance of a small Labor majority.

Wary of the largest government borrowing bill in British history, financial markets are most afraid of a hung parliament which could hamper efforts to reduce the budget deficit, set to exceed 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product this year.