Gordon Brown, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, became leader of the ruling Labor Party on Sunday afternoon at a special Labor conference here in central Britain.
He is also to succeed Tony Blair as prime minister after the latter left No. 10 on Wednesday. This is finally Brown's turn, after letting Blair to be at the forefront of the party 13 years ago in the wake of the sudden death of the then Labor leader John Smith.
As one of the two major architects of the Labor Party, Brown's contribution to the country's economy is there for all to see. His nomination and coronation has been no surprise, however, as no other candidates for the post of Labor leader has been qualified in line with the party standards. And Brown, therefore, becomes the first Labor Party leader unchallenged since 1930s.
Widely deemed as a private person, Brown started to reveal his policy ideas only lately when his leadership campaign unfolded. However limited is the information, one thing could be certain, that is, he is going to change the way of governing the country.
Changing way of governing
Brown believes that only if it undergoes fundamental reform, could the Labor Party win the next general election. And transparency as well as giving the Parliament a fuller role to play is the best way to bid farewell to the Blair years.
To regain public trust in the government and draw lessons from past mistakes, he pledged to shift the governing style from the top-down "sofa politics" typical of the Blair era, when a small circle of political advisers made the decisions, to relaxing government control and listening to the people.
Major decisions on matters of war and peace, as well as emergency military actions should be made by the Parliament, instead of the prime minister. He also proposed a ministerial code of conduct to prevent scandals such as "money for peerage" from ever happening again.
With voters' support for Labor declining, Brown tries to win over people from across the party boundaries. He promised to draw talents with experiences and expertise from all parties to make his party more modern.
To the 56-year-old chancellor, climate change, global economic competition and terrorism are all major challenges facing Britain in the years ahead. To meet the challenges, he wanted his government to be more environmentally friendly. His proposal of building five eco-towns and 100,000 more apartments aims to fix both issues of environmental concern and housing.
Engaging businesses in education and public services is also part of his plan of investing in the future and make Britain beneficiary of globalization. Fighting terrorism is a major priority when Brown takes office. He has already unveiled harsher measures which include increasing security expenses, prolonging the 28-day detention limit for terrorist suspect without charge, and using information from bugging phone calls and intercepting e- mails as evidence in court.
Pragmatic foreign policy
In foreign policy, Brown is believed to be more pragmatic. As Guardian columnist Timothy Ash analyzed, there are three lessons Brown must learn from Blair.
First, never again must the flag of liberal interventionism be so abused. All the many peaceful forms of liberal intervention must first be exhausted before military action be taken as last resort.
Secondly, only a strong Europe, speaking with one voice, can be the strategic partner that the United States badly needs.
Thirdly, in order to get a strong Europe, the British prime minister must face down the unelected press barons who currently dictate Britain's European policy.
Although no one expect big changes in a close Anglo-American relationship, Brown would be more sensitive to the concerns of the British public, retaining Britain's ties with the United States while keeping its distance. British troops' withdrawal from Iraq would be a major decision. A constructive relation with the European Union is no less important.
On Iraq, the most 'divisive issue' for Labor and the country, Brown had admitted the government had made mistakes over its handling of the situation in Iraq. But he had ruled out the possibility of an immediate troop withdrawal, saying Britain has to honor its obligations to the country.
He urged British voters to look ahead and make efforts in political reconciliation and economic rebuilding in Iraq to earn people's trust, saying economy, employment and security are the keys to peace in the country.
On Iran's nuclear strength, Brown advocated peaceful solutions such as diplomatic moves and economic sanctions as the best way forward. He also promised a economic route map for peace in the Middle East, to tackle poverty in the Palestinian territories.
United for challenges
For many people, Brown lacks the charisma as permeated from Blair. However, the strength, honesty and firmness he has been demonstrating over the last decade as Chancellor of the Exchequer has been well noted by the public. A cautious economic strategist, Brown is also winning back voters' support since he started his leadership campaign some six weeks ago.
A latest opinion poll showed that 39 percent of voters now support Labor, the highest rate since last October. As media commentators put it, the honeymoon between the British public and the Conservatives led by young David Cameron has ended.
When Brown takes his office on Wednesday, he is faced with the largest cabinet reshuffle since 1997. With heavyweight Blairites exited already, Brown is blessed to implement his ideas to the full.