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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown survives leadership challenge

LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday survived the most serious test of his leadership, offering his critics a humbling promise to improve after his governing Labor Party suffered its worst electoral results in a century.

Brown made a rare admission of his failings in a speech to a private meeting of hundreds of Labor lawmakers from both houses of Parliament — a move that appeared to have halted a rebellion that had threatened his ouster.

Repeated cheers could be heard from the meeting.

"There was a massive show of unity," Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said. "He made the speech of his life."

Rebels need 71 of Labor's 350 lawmakers to offer backing to a challenger to Brown to trigger a leadership contest — a figure that appears out of their reach after only about six dissidents spoke against Brown at the meeting.

"I have my strengths and I have my weaknesses, I know I need to improve. There are some things I can do well, some things I do not so well. I've learnt that you've got to keep learning all the time," Brown told the meeting, according to a text of his speech supplied by his office.

It leaves Brown almost certain to survive calls for him to quit and means he will likely lead the party into an election that must be held by June 2010.

Brown had faced loud calls to quit from a group of dissident Labor lawmakers after more than a dozen resignations from his government over the last week and poor results in elections to local councils and the European Parliament on Sunday.

His Labor Party finished third in Britain in voting for representatives to the European Parliament. The results, announced Sunday, were Labor's worst in a nationwide vote since 1910 — showing the damage wreaked by a scandal over lawmakers' excessive expense claims.

Visit to London

by first lady

First lady Michelle Obama made an unannounced visit to London on Monday after attending D-day commemorations in Europe. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said Obama had a private meeting with Sarah Brown, the prime minister's wife, at 10 Downing Street. Obama was accompanied by her two daughters, Sasha and Malia, on her whirlwind visit to London, but her husband, President Barack Obama, was already back in the United States after a trip to the Middle East and Europe. The spokesman declined to say whether Brown's office helped arrange a reported visit by Obama and her children to see the British Parliament's famous clock tower — the iconic home of the Big Ben bell.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown survives leadership challenge 06/08/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 8, 2009 10:50pm]

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