LONDON - Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Sunday he would not roll over before the next election, which polls suggest he will lose badly, and dismissed gossip that his health was too poor to fight a strong campaign.
Speaking at the start of his Labour Party's annual conference, Brown rejected Chancellor Alistair Darling's comment that the party appeared to have lost the will to live, and said the government was working hard to revive Britain's economy.
This party has had to fight for everything it has got, I have had to fight in my life, he told the BBC. A setback can either be a challenge that means it's an opportunity to do something better or you roll over. I do not roll over.
Trailing in opinion polls before an election due by June 2010, Brown appealed to voters to remember his global leadership during the economic crisis and said a victory for the Conservatives would lead to blanket spending cuts.
We are now coming out of recession as a result of the actions that we have taken, Brown said.
The party which has ruled Britain since Tony Blair swept to office in 1997 has been shaken by the worst recession in decades, a scandal over politicians' expenses and internal doubts over the choice of Brown as leader.
Asked about political gossip that he was taking prescription painkillers or other pills to help him cope with the strains of the job, Brown replied: No.
I feel that I have done everything to show people that I can do the job even with the handicap that I have had as a result of a rugby injury, he said. Brown lost the sight of one eye after an accident playing rugby as a teenager and had a series of operations to save his other eye.
With Labour activists meeting in Brighton for one of the most important conferences in years, two polls suggested Brown would have a tough time persuading voters to give his party an historic fourth successive term.
An ICM poll in the News of the World newspaper gave the Conservatives a 14-point lead over Labour, broadly in line with other recent surveys. Asked who would make a better prime minister, 43 percent of those questioned chose Conservative leader David Cameron, with only one-fifth picking Brown.
The Conservatives were on 40 percent, Labour on 26 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 23 percent. A second poll in the Mail on Sunday gave the Conservatives a 15-point lead.
Brown, a former finance minister who replaced Blair as prime minister in 2007, acknowledged the scale of his task in the foreword to a policy document issued by his office on Saturday.
We know this will be the fight of our lives, he wrote.
The Conservatives' finance spokesman, George Osborne, attacked Brown for reinventing himself as the guardian of the nation's finances after doubling the national debt.
It is the latest attempt to treat the public like fools, Osborne said.
(Editing by Andrew Dobbie)