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Brown Says He Has Ability to Raise U.K. Debt in `Hard Times'

By Robert

Sept. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the U.K. has the ability to increase government borrowing to support the economy, his latest effort to show he is taking steps to counter the slowdown.

Brown's words come on the eve of the Labour Party's annual conference and follow weeks of sniping from lawmakers calling for him to quit. Britain's budget deficit is running ahead of forecasts and may breach his own borrowing limits as economic growth saps tax receipts.

``In days of higher growth we also took decisions to reduce the national debt to give us the flexibility to increase borrowing in these hard times,'' the prime minister wrote in an article in tomorrow's Guardian newspaper.

While Brown later pledges his fiscal policy will ``remain sound,'' his words may signal a shift from rules, introduced when he was finance minister in 1997, of borrowing only for capital investment and keeping debt below 40 percent of gross domestic product. Falling tax receipts this week saw the U.K. budget deficit widen to its largest level since records began in 1993.

He went on to attack the opposition Conservatives for their ``ideological objection to higher borrowing'' which, he said, combined with a pledge to cut inheritance taxes, ``would have required them to scale back public services.''

A YouGov Plc poll in the Daily Telegraph newspaper showed Labour had the support of 24 percent of adults, behind the conservatives at 44 percent. Two-thirds of the 2,227 adults surveyed Sept. 17-19 agreed Brown had ``blown it'' as prime minister and offered ``a lot of tough sounding words but little positive action.''

Annual Conference

So far 13 Labour lawmakers, including one minister in Brown's government, have called on the prime minister to quit. While he doesn't directly address their criticisms in his newspaper article, Brown urges his party, which meets in Manchester for the start of its annual conference this weekend, to ``be concentrated on the needs of the British people, whose paramount concern is how this week's financial events will impact on their families.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at

Last Updated: September 19, 2008 18:00 EDT


J.K. Rowling gives $1.8M gift to UK ruling party
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling donates $1.8 million to UK's ruling Labour Party

LONDON, England (AP) -- It sounds like Harry Potter will vote for the Labour Party when the boy wizard is old enough to cast a ballot.

J.K. Rowling said Gordon Brown had worked hard to reduce child poverty.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling made a rare foray into Britain's bruising political battles Saturday, donating 1 million pounds ($1.8 million) to the struggling Labour Party and accusing the rival Conservatives of discriminating against poor parents trying to work their way out of poverty.

In a statement that referred back to the days when she was struggling to feed and clothe her family, Rowling said Prime Minister Gordon Brown has worked hard to reduce child poverty while Conservative chief David Cameron has proposed tax changes that would hurt working single parents.

"I believe that poor and vulnerable families will fare much better under the Labour Party than they would under a Cameron-led Conservative Party," said Rowling, who has become one of the world's richest and most successful authors with the unprecedented appetite for Harry Potter stories.

The Labour Party opens its annual conference trailing the resurgent Conservatives by more than 20 points in most opinion polls with an election due within two years.

Brown, who is trying to quash a rebellion from some members of his own party, thanked Rowling for the donation, which comes at a time when the Labour Party is saddled with extensive debts. He said he was "delighted" with her help.

Rowling has generally stayed out of the political frays, but she appears to have been upset by Conservative tax plans that she said would increase benefits for married couples without helping single parents.

"David Cameron's promise of tax perks for the married is reminiscent of the Conservative government I experienced as a lone parent." she said. "It sends the message that the Conservatives still believe a childless, dual-income, but married couple is more deserving of a financial pat on the head than those struggling, as I once was, to keep their families afloat in difficult times."

British newspapers this year estimated Rowling's wealth at 560 million pounds ($1 billion).

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