'Barnstorming' Brown to reassert authority

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Gordon Brown is to come out fighting at next week's Labour conference after being stripped of his election role by Tony Blair.

Gordon Brown is to come out fighting at next week's Labour conference after being stripped of his election role by Tony Blair.

The Chancellor will make a "barnstorming speech" setting out his vision for a third term, according to close allies. Although outwardly loyal, Mr Brown intends forcefully to remind Labour activists that he provides the economic foundation for the party's success. "He is the architect of our prosperity," said one friend. "But that wealth must be used for fairness and justice."

The power of the Chancellor's address this year has been enhanced by his refusal to respond to aggressive briefing following Mr Blair's reshuffle. He has kept his own counsel despite Alan Milburn's appointment as election supremo ­ a role Mr Brown played in the last two campaigns.

There were reports last night that Tony Blair is considering bringing back Alastair Campbell to "beef up" Labour's election campaign. But Tony Blair's former communications director said he knew nothing of reports that he was being lined up to make a comeback. Mr Campbell also denied reports that he was seeking to become an MP.

Mr Brown is expected to assemble his key lieutenants, Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander, in the coming days to work on a speech that all agree is vital to his political future. He is acutely aware he must reassert his authority after weeks of speculation that he has lost ground to other potential successors, without destabilising Labour before the election.

The temperature has also been raised by revelations about a meeting refereed by John Prescott between Mr Blair and Mr Brown in November last year.

The Prime Minister is said to have agreed to quit after a year, which he abandoned after being told it was likely Labour could win a third landslidevictory. His allies justify theabout-turn privately saying that Mr Brown had failed to honour the deal by obstructing key policies.

Mr Blair has denied he considered quitting, Lord Bragg revealed that the Prime Minister had been under "colossal" strain earlier this year. Whatever the truth of his "wobble", the reshuffle made it clear that he intends to stay where he is. The consequences of the shake-up have yet to be fully felt, however.

Mr Brown retains sole control of the mini-Budget this autumn, an event that will have a direct bearing on election strategy. "You can be sure he won't be sharing his thoughts on that with Milburn," one senior ally said last night.