BRIGHTON, Sept 28 – Britain\’s ruling Labour Party will unveil tough new action on bankers\’ bonuses at its conference Monday, while attempting to show it will fight for its life in an election.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown was forced to spend the first day of his party\’s annual gathering on Sunday fending off gloomy predictions from his own ministers and persistent questions about his health.
With an election to take place by June, Labour is so far behind the opposition Conservatives in opinion polls after 12 years in power that it has little choice but to portray itself as the underdog.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling will insist in his speech on Monday that Labour must take the fight to the Conservatives, and give details of a potentially vote-winning policy to crack down on bankers\’ pay.
Brown will address the conference on Tuesday, but in the face of polls showing the Conservatives have a 15-point lead, he insisted in an interview Sunday: "I do not roll over".
But the prime minister was forced to deny runours circulating on the Internet that he is taking anti-depressants.
Pressed by his BBC interviewer on whether he was dependent on prescription drugs to help him "get through", Brown said: "No."
He did admit his his eyesight was a constant "problem" — he lost the use of one eye in a rugby accident as a youth and has required operations on the other — but denied he had other health problems.
With public anger at bankers running high in the wake of the financial crisis, Darling is likely to promise new legislation "to end the reckless culture that puts short-term profits over long-term success".
"Let me assure the country – and warn the banks – that there will be no return to the business as usual for them," Darling is to tell delegates.
"So in the next few weeks we will introduce legislation to end the reckless culture that puts short-term profits over long-term success.
"Any bonuses will be deferred over time so they can be clawed back if they are not warranted by long-term performance.
"We won\’t allow greed and recklessness to ever again endanger the whole global economy and the lives of millions of people."
Darling revealed his frustration at the sense of gloom in the party in an interview Sunday in which he said Labour appeared to have lost "the will to live".
"We don\’t look as if we have got fire in our bellies. We have got to come out fighting," he told The Observer newspaper.
The polls gave Labour little comfort. A ComRes survey for the Independent newspaper on Monday showed the Conservatives on 38 percent and Labour level with the Liberal Democrats on 23 percent.
Brown indicated he will seek to regain the policy initiative by promising to introduce a law requiring the budget deficit to be halved by 2014.
It would commit future governments to cutting Britain\’s 175 billion pound (188 billion euro, 277 billion dollar) deficit.
Brown admitted in the interview he sometimes wondered whether people thought someone else could do a better job as prime minister.
But despite the fact Britain remains in recession — while France, Germany and Japan have all emerged from it — Brown said he was in "no doubt" he had taken the right decisions over the financial crisis.
He said: "I have led the way round the world, spent night after day persuading my colleagues around the world of the action that is necessary. We are now coming out of the recession as a result of the actions that we have taken.
"I have no doubt that what I am doing is the right thing to take us through all this."