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Brown wins praise for his low-key demeanor

LONDON — LONDON -- Before Gordon Brown took power as Britain's new prime minister, there was much talk about whether the electorate would warm to the dour, methodical and detail-driven Scot, particularly after so many years of soaring oratory from his predecessor, Tony Blair.

The answer came more quickly than anyone thought, with the foiled terrorist attacks in London on Friday and at Glasgow Airport on Saturday, just days after Brown took office.

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For his admirers, it seemed, Brown's very dourness offered an antidote to the theatrical Blair.

In a somewhat wooden address to the nation Saturday and in an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Brown played down the threat, treating the episodes as a crime rather than a threat to civilization. Yet his minimalist approach seemed to strike a reassuring chord with Britons, many of whom had expressed fatigue with Blair's apocalyptic view of terrorism.

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"Gordon Brown has got off to a flying start as prime minister," Peter Riddell, a political columnist for The Times of London, wrote yesterday, saying his poll ratings for strength and leadership were "soaring" in the aftermath of the thwarted attacks.

He received high marks from civil rights groups as well. "So far, at least, Brown has passed the first test of his administration," Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said Sunday. "He has not played politics with the terror threat and has treated this weekend's events as an operational rather than a political matter."

In Parliament yesterday, Brown unveiled a list of proposals meant to shed power at the center in favor of the people. They included the creation of a national security council, greater parliamentary oversight of intelligence gathering and what he called "a more open 21st-century British democracy."

The creation of a national security council seemed designed to counter a threat from terrorism that he has sought to portray less as a result of perverted Islam -- Blair's view -- than as a crime that should be addressed holistically.

"I have said for some time that the long and continuing security obligation upon us requires us to coordinate military, policing, intelligence and diplomatic action -- and also to win hearts and minds in this country and around the world," Brown told Parliament.


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