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In physical terms, Mr. Gordon Brown has not gone far this week: He moved his office one door down, from No. 11 to No. 10 on Downing Street in London. He did not even have to move his family, which already lives at the private quarters at No. 10. But the change in jobs from chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) to prime minister signals the beginning of a new era for his country.

Mr. Brown now faces the challenge of his lifetime: He must rejuvenate a government and a Labour Party that have been battered by the war in Iraq and build on the political record of his predecessor, Mr. Tony Blair.

Mr. Brown has long toiled in Mr. Blair’s shadow. The two men joined Parliament in 1983 and forged an intellectual partnership that transformed their Labour Party. They allegedly cut a deal in 1994 that acknowledged that Mr. Blair was the more electable leader of the two.

In return for not contesting his rival’s bid for party leadership, Mr. Brown would control economic issues. The wisdom of the accord was evident three years later when Labour returned to power and the party has governed ever since, winning three election victories in the intervening decade.

Despite successes in managing the economy — or perhaps because of them — Mr. Brown found the role of chancellor of the Exchequer increasingly confining. Reportedly, the two men had another agreement by which Mr. Blair would step down after five years in office; that did not happen and is said to have roiled their relationship.

Instead, it was Mr. Blair’s support for the Iraq war that forced his hand. With popularity sagging, the former prime minister recognized that he had to go if Labour was to stand a chance at winning another election.

After taking the queen’s commission to head the new government on Wednesday, Mr. Brown promised “a new government with new priorities.” Mr. Brown has also vowed to revitalize Labour and to “learn lessons that need to be learned.”

Although he has supported the decision to back the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he also has declared that his foreign policy will “reflect the truth that to isolate and defeat terrorist extremism now involves more than military force. It is also a struggle of ideas and ideals that in the coming years will be waged and won for hearts and minds here at home and round the world.”

While that is a common-sense approach, it will pose problems for the new prime minister. Many in his party want to see more distance between London and Washington, as Mr. Blair was infamously derided for being U.S. President George W. Bush’s “poodle.” But if he hopes to maintain the special relationship between the United States and Britain that has been a pillar of British foreign policy, Mr. Brown will have to proceed carefully. His promise to honor commitments to help rebuild Iraq is sure to infuriate some party members.

While his foreign policy inclinations are slowly emerging, there is far less uncertainty about his economic thinking. Mr. Brown has driven Labour’s economic modernization, the discard of old socialist thinking and the embrace of globalization. Under his steady hand, Britain has been one of the fastest growing economies of Europe and London is again the center of international life and culture. His chief tasks now are to soften the edges of success. Inequality is rising dramatically and the initial reforms must now be followed up to ensure that renovated social services are delivered as promised.

Hanging over his job is the prospect of the next election. Mr. Brown does not have to call for a vote until 2010, and most polls suggest that the new prime minister needs time to undo the damage wrought by Mr. Blair’s Iraq policy. He has already received a boost from opinion polls that show Labour pulling even with the opposition Conservative Party — behind which it had trailed since last year — and Mr. Brown besting conservative leader Mr. David Cameron when respondents were asked who would make a better prime minister.

Both results could be the product of a “bounce” following the handover of power, but they also show Mr. Brown has a foundation upon which he can build.

If his past is any indication, that is all he needs. Mr. Brown has a reputation for being focused. In contrast to the smooth and sometimes glib Mr. Blair, he is a dour but serious and committed politician. His hard work has yielded results: He has excelled at every assignment and invariably succeeded. Doing well by his country is the best way to ensure that his party wins a fourth consecutive national election, and builds upon the impressive legacy bequeathed to him. We wish him luck.

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