Gordon Brown has told the BBC he will “do better” as prime minister but says he is the man with the experience to lead Britain through tough times.
He said he was “never complacent” and had made mistakes on the 10p tax rate but had made the right decisions on Northern Rock and short selling.
“I always want to do better and I will do better,” he told the BBC.
An internet survey suggests Labour could be left with as few as 160 MPs at the next general election.
But Mr Brown said opinion polls were a referendum on the government of the day and the real choice, based on policies, would come at the next general election.
In an interview with BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Brown, who is in Manchester for the Labour Party conference, said the best way to deal with the “economic storm” was to face it, and “demonstrate judgement and demonstrate wisdom”.
Asked if his cabinet was behind him, he said: “I think we have a pretty united cabinet. I think people in the Labour Party want the cabinet to work together to deal with the economic problems we face.”
He accused the Conservatives of being “pessimistic” about Britain and said on decisions from nationalising Northern Rock to a temporary ban on short selling – where traders bet on share prices falling – the government had got it right and they had been wrong.