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Britain's Brown wins rare praise at home for US trip

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown shakes hands as he arrives to address a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)


Prime Minister Gordon Brown won some rare praise from the British media on Thursday for his efforts to confront US protectionist interests during a trip to Washington this week. While Brown's low-key meeting with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday was viewed by some here as a snub, newspapers broadly welcomed his speech to both Houses of Congress the next day.

The mass-selling Daily Mail newspaper hailed the "serious and sombre" address and praised him for "refusing to pull his punches" on the need to resist protectionism in the face of the global economic crisis. "True, the prime minister laid on the flattery to his hosts with a trowel. But wrapped up in his compliments was a highly important and often controversial message," it said.

The Daily Mirror tabloid said Brown - whose ruling Labour party is struggling with dismal poll ratings at home - "rose magnificently to the challenge yesterday by delivering a speech of substance and integrity". It was a "reminder that Mr Brown is a big political beast, a prime minister with ideas and energy and drive".

The conservative Daily Telegraph also praised Brown's "eloquent and moving words" to describe the importance of the relationship between Britain and the United States - which Obama acknowledged after their meeting on Tuesday, to the delight of British commentators. But the newspaper said his warning on protectionism would be of no use unless those same tendencies in Europe were also reined in ahead of the summit of G20 nations in London next month.

The Times argued that Brown should have been tougher, as did the Guardian, which wrote in an editorial: "Perhaps respect encouraged him to be too cautious, when a more critical friend would have been blunter.  "His passage on protectionism pulled its punches. He did not blame America for the crash, as he so often does at home."

The Sun also pulled no punches with a clear warning that no matter how successful he was abroad, Brown could not escape from the criticism at home that he was partly to blame for the economic crisis in Britain. "Grand speeches in America cut little ice in dole (unemployment) queues here," it said.