Brown pledges to boost recovery and the police

BIRMINGHAM - Britain's ruling Labour Party, trailing in the polls before a May 6 election, sought to regain the initiative yesterday with plans to support a fragile economic recovery and police corporate takeovers.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled Labour's platform for what would be an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office for the party at a newly built hospital in England.

Launching its manifesto, Labour said it would not jeopardise a fragile economic recovery with "reckless cuts to public spending this year".

Labour said company takeovers should be backed by two-thirds of shareholders. It also pledged to force banks to hold more capital and to break up state-owned banks.

"We will continue to support the economy while growth is still fragile, sticking with our targeted increase in public spending over the next year to sustain recovery ... Once the recovery is secure, we will rapidly reduce the budget deficit," Labour said.

It plans to halve the deficit within four years but says plans by the opposition Conservatives for faster, deeper cuts could derail the recovery. The centre-right Conservatives say failure to tackle the deficit could wreck the recovery.

The Conservatives, vying to end 13 years of Labour rule, are ahead in the polls but not by enough to be sure of an overall majority in Parliament. Investors fear a "hung Parliament" would make decisive action to tackle the deficit less likely.

A YouGov poll in the Sun newspaper said the Conservative lead had narrowed to six points, not enough to guarantee an overall majority in the 650-seat Parliament.

The first week of campaigning was dominated by a row over Labour's plan to raise the National Insurance payroll tax. The Conservatives won backing from dozens of leading businesmen for their plan to partly reverse the planned rise. - Reuters