Brown 'all mouth and no trousers'

Peter Graff

Peter Graff

LONDON - Gordon Brown came under the first real pressure of his premiership yesterday as newspapers, opponents and even allies accused him of stoking election fever only to retreat in the face of collapsing polls.

After weeks of hinting an election was coming, the British prime minister ruled out calling an early vote after opinion polls showed a double-digit lead over his opponents had evaporated in a week.

"Brown bottles it," shouted identical front-page headlines in both the left-leaning Independent on Sunday and the right-wing Mail on Sunday, using a slang expression for losing one's nerve.

"All mouth and no trousers," mocked a headline in the Sunday Times, above a doctored picture of Brown in his underwear, his trousers around his ankles.

Brown, who took over from Tony Blair three months ago, insisted he would have won an election had he decided to call it, but wanted time to carry out his policies first. "The easiest thing I could have done is call an election. I could have called an election on competence. We could have won an election now or won an election sooner or later," Brown said.

The Conservatives called Brown's reversal a "humiliating retreat". - ReuterS