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Guessing game still on over snap poll

Brown talks of policies but rules nothing out

By Sam Lister

Gordon Brown refused to quash speculation over whether he plans to call a snap general election as he prepared for his speech to Labour's autumn conference today.

The Prime Minister insisted he was "getting on with the job of running the country" but would not rule out an October poll.

But he revealed that in his first address to party delegates since taking the helm earlier this year, he will lay down a series of policies to tackle some of the UK's most pressing problems.

He said: "What we are doing this week is not about elections, it's about setting out the policies that are right for the country in the long term.

"Every day there is a new challenge and my focus has been totally on the concerns of the country. For three months I have been getting on with the job and my focus is on the job.

"What people want to hear this week is what we are offering for the country and anything that diverts from that is not fair to the British people.

"I have said before I'm not going to give a running commentary on what my thoughts are on this or that, apart from the policy issues."

But before the Prime Minister takes to the stage in Bournemouth, Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward will address party delegates.

It will also be his first speech to conference in his new role and he is expected look back at the dramatic developments in the province over the last 12 months as well as setting out some of the challenges ahead.

Representatives from Ulster's major parties have also turned up at the Labour gathering, although confusion surrounds an event scheduled for tomorrow.

First Minister Ian Paisley and the Deputy First Minister were both billed to attend the Ulster Fry fringe meeting, but Sinn Fein insist Martin McGuinness will not be at the morning event.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has also been addressing fringe events, telling Labour members at the Agreed Ireland Forum that the Assembly had enjoyed a honeymoon period but "real politics" would kick in this autumn.

He said: "This is a year which has seen political change in every part of these islands - in Cardiff and Holyrood, in Westminster and Dublin and of course at Stormont.

"We carry a shared history in these islands. Now we face the real challenge of seizing the opportunities of working political institutions to build a shared future in the North and for everyone who lives on them.

" The SDLP is pleased that two parties who for decades set themselves against each other and against political progress have now accepted the very principles they refused to support. Unsurprisingly, the first months of the restored Executive have seen a honeymoon period. Moving into the autumn, the real business of politics will begin."

He added: " Government should be built on robust values, imaginative proposals and real solutions to the problems our community faces. This is the standard the SDLP sets for itself and will hold others to.

"The new Executive is one founded on the principle of power-sharing. But it must be run on that basis too - it cannot be one run by carve-up. The shared society we must build requires positive leadership and cooperation. We need to abandon the politics of grievance and work on common solutions to our common problems."

Belfast Telegraph


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