Brown reveals his fightback plan for 'dangerous' year ahead

Last updated at 23:46 06 January 2008

Prime Minister Gordon Brown today signals his determination to take unpopular decisions on major development projects from nuclear power plants to airport runways if he feels it is necessary for the good of the country.

He accused Westminster opponents of proposed projects like a third runway for Heathrow and London's Crossrail railway link of political "opportunism" and insisted he would not shy away from taking "difficult long-term decisions".

Coming ahead of Tuesday's announcement on a new generation of nuclear power stations, Mr Brown's comments may be seen as an attempt to face down critics who accuse him of favouring economic growth over the needs of the environment.

The coming year is expected to see Mr Brown face resistance on environmental grounds not only to the development of new atomic power plants, but also plans for three million new homes and proposed rail and airport projects.

In an interview with The Observer, Mr Brown said:

"The only way Britain can be great in the future is by people who are prepared through thick and thin, and through bad times and good times, to take what are difficult long-term decisions, even if at times it may be easier to do simpler or less difficult things."

And he added: "This is the year when we will make and implement all the major long-term decisions that are going to safeguard and equip Britain properly for its future...

"We will have to make a decision, yes or no, on nuclear power. And we will publish our proposals on Tuesday. We will have to make a decision, yes or no, on planning the future of the country.

"We've got a Housing Bill that we want to use to build 3 million houses over the next few years, which is solving at least part of the problem about housing demand.

"We have legislation coming through on Crossrail, on Heathrow, on big infrastructure decisions which if the country doesn't make now then we will either be congested or be unable to cope in the years to come.

"What's really fascinating is that the opposition parties are against almost all these big long-term decisions. And I think it's opportunist.

"And I think it's not putting the long-term interests of the country before the short-term political gain to parties."

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Brown acknowledged that Britain faces "a difficult and dangerous situation for the world economy" in 2008, but said that the country's recent record of low inflation, stability and high employment left it better positioned than in earlier times to cope with global turbulence.

He restated his conviction that the fight against Islamist extremism requires a campaign to win the hearts and minds of young British Muslims.

And he even indicated that he can understand the pressures that might drive Muslim teens into the arms of the fanatics.

Discussing a recent book by Ed Husain, detailing his decision to join and later quit the hard-line Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, Mr Brown said:

"When you read Ed Husain, there was a ferment of activity around colleges and around certain mosques and institutions.

"And it's hardly surprising that lots of young people are drawn into that, not just because of the excitement, because of the pressures that are upon them."

He added:

"The more we can persuade young people that there is common ground between the religions, the more we can persuade people that Britain stands for liberty and that Britain stands for a fair deal for the world's poor, the more we can convince people that the ideas they have - if they are in support of extremist and violent activity - are ones condemned by every religion, the more we can make progress."