Gordon Brown May Call October General Election

Britain's Gordon Brown, enjoying a lengthy political honeymoon after taking over as prime minister in June, may call an election as early as October to cash in on opinion poll gains, The Times newspaper said on Wednesday.

Quoting an official in Brown's ruling Labour Party, the newspaper said Brown had instructed his allies to start raising funds to prepare for a possible election in autumn.

"I can confirm that the party has been put on alert for an early election that could take place as soon as this autumn," party vice-chairman Martin Salter told The Times.

A source at Brown's Downing Street office said the new prime minister, who took over from Tony Blair on June 27, was not ruling anything out.

But the source added: "There's nothing to justify saying that this is because Brown is planning to spring an autumn election."

Brown, who served as finance minister throughout Blair's decade in office, has appointed his transport secretary Douglas Alexander as election coordinator, and opinion polls show Labour is enjoying a significant "Brown bounce" in popularity.

The new prime minister celebrated his first month in power last week with the party's best poll ratings in four years, sparking press speculation that he may decide to call an election when parliament returns after its summer recess.

A Daily Telegraph poll showed 41 percent backing for Labour, 32 percent for the Conservatives and 16 percent for the centrist Liberal Democrats.

In another poll for the Times on Tuesday, support for Labour has risen to 39 percent, its highest level for 18 months, while the Conservatives fell to 33 percent, the lowest since its youthful leader David Cameron took over as head of the party in December 2005.

Until the "Brown bounce" prompted speculation of an earlier call to voters, the next general election had not been expected in Britain until 2009.

Wednesday's Times report said Brown had ordered a complete review of Labour's organisation before leaving for his trip to Washington this week. It also said he has asked senior party members to step up preparation of Labour's election manifesto.