Finance Is PM's 2008 Priority; BRITAIN

Article excerpt

Byline: By JOE CHURCHER

GORDON Brown promised "real and serious changes" from his Government in 2008 as a senior Cabinet ally warned that Tory messages were "resonating" with voters.

The Prime Minister used his NewYear message to say his top priority would be steering the UK through a period of global financial turbulence.

But he also pledged to press ahead with public service reforms in what would be "the decisive year" of the decade.

Conservative leader David Cameron used his message to put his party on a year-long election footing to defeat Mr Brown's " incompetent" administration.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw conceded the Opposition were proving appealing and warned that Labour needed to show "clear progress" if it was to stay in power.

The party leaders' pronouncements came as a new opinion poll showed a Labour revival, although it still remained five points adrift of the Conservatives.

Mr Brown predicted a difficult period for the economy.

"With unbending determination, in 2008, we will steer a course of stability through global financial turbulence," he said.

"The global credit problem that started in America is now the most immediate challenge for every economy and addressing it the most immediate priority.

"But just as we withstood the Asia crisis, the American recession, the end of the IT bubble and the trebling of oil prices and continued to grow, Britain will meet and master this new challenge."

He went on: "We will not rest on our economic success, but build on it. And 2008 will be the decisive year of this decade to put in place the long-term changes that will prepare us for the decades ahead. …