Britain's PM faces revolt within party

Here's a primer for the modern British politician: Smile a lot, give short, punchy answers to questions, mingle easily with the public and pretend to enjoy it.

Or you can try it the Gordon Brown way.

The rumpled British prime minister rarely smiles, though handlers have tried to teach him how. He fills speeches with obscure proposals, often appears uncomfortable with voters and rarely seems happy.

And that was during his brief political honeymoon, before he had to deal with a global financial crisis and a simultaneous rebellion in his own Labour Party. His authority ebbing, his future at stake, he faces crunch time as the party's annual convention opens today.

Brown's poll standing has gone from bad to horrendous, with the opposition Conservative Party enjoying its highest ratings since the glory days of Margaret Thatcher.

In British politics, unlike the U.S. presidential system, prime ministers must worry not only about being rejected by voters come election time; they can be ousted as party leader any time and be replaced with a new prime minister.

Now, after little more than a year in office, dissatisfaction with Brown has spread to the junior ministerial ranks with the defection of David Cairns, a minister in the government's Scotland office who resigned and demanded an open contest for party leadership.

The move has the support of a growing number of Labour Party lawmakers, but so far they don't have the 70 backers needed to force a leadership election.

Now, with Labor more than 20 points behind the Tories, Brown's greatest asset – the economic boom of yesteryear – is being engulfed, and much is riding on whether his speech Tuesday to the convention can inspire new confidence.