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British PM Brown Faces Down Critics and Wins Applause for 'Speech of His Life'


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has given what one Cabinet minister calls the "speech of his life," in a closed Labor Party meeting where he defended himself against scandal and a poor showing in two recent elections.

Mr. Brown met privately Monday with 350 Labor Members of Parliament, refusing to resign despite calls from some party hardliners.

Lawmakers who were present said Mr. Brown told the gathering his performance as party leader and prime minister needs to improve, but that he will not resign, as some of his opponents have suggested. Witnesses say most of the several hundred party members in the room cheered and applauded loudly.

Mr. Brown has been prime minister since 2007, when Tony Blair stepped down as leader of the British government. He is obliged to call for new elections by next June - five years after the previous national ballot.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, who reviewed Mr. Brown's performance with the "speech of his life" accolade, said what had been expected to be a bitter showdown between party factions turned into "a massive show of unity."

Labor candidates finished a poor third in the just completed European Parliamentary elections - behind their traditional rivals from the Conservative Party and even members of the the anti-EU UK Independence Party. It was Labor's worst election showing in 100 years.

The party also did poorly in last week's local elections, largely because British voters are angry over a parliamentary expenses scandal involving a number of Labor members.

Eight members of Mr. Brown's Cabinet have resigned, and several of them say Mr. Brown should call early elections. The prime minister is expected to set an election date sometime in May of next year, just before the June 2010 deadline.

Elsewhere in Europe, conservatives and center-right parties dominated the European Parliament vote, scoring victories in Germany, France, Poland, Spain and other states. Voter turnout for the four-day-long election was slightly more than 43 percent - a record low. Analysts say many Europeans have little faith in the EU and believe parliament members are detached from citizens' daily problems.


Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.


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