Blair will quit as British PM within a year
Thursday, September 7, 2006
British Prime Minister Tony Blair bowed to pressure from within his own Labour Party today by publicly confirming he will resign within a year. "I would have preferred to do this in my own way," said Blair who added "the next party conference in the next couple of weeks will be my last party conference as party leader." However, he refused to name the specific date of his resignation, "The precise timetable has to be left to me and has to be done in the proper way," Blair insisted. "I'm not going to set a precise date now. I don't think that's right. I will do that at a future date, and I will do that in the interests of the country."
He apologised for the party's conduct this week saying it "has not been our finest hour, to be frank".
Demands that Blair announce his resignation plans have mounted over the past few months particularly over concerns about the Prime Minister's strong support for Israel during the Israel-Hezbollah war, the perception that he is a loyal follower of United States President George W. Bush and a precipitous slide in Labor's support in public opinion polls where the party is now at a 16 year low.
Yesterday, eight Labour MPs resigned from their junior government positions over Blair's refusal to announce his retirement. They had previously been considered staunch Blairites. The British press reports of a shouting match yesterday between Blair and his likeliest successor, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown over the handover date.
"I want to make it absolutely clear today that when I met the prime minister yesterday, I said to him, as I have said on many occasions to him and I repeat today, that it is for him to make the decision," Brown said.
"I said also to him, and I make clear again today, that I will support him in the decisions he makes, that this cannot and should not be about private arrangements but what is in the best interests of our party and, most of all, the best interests of our country."
Despite Blair's announcement, several MPs expressed their dissatisfaction at his refusal to name a precise date and demanded that he leave sooner rather than later.
Manchester Blakeley MP Graham Stringer told the BBC if Blair "thought it was going to take the politics out of the next nine months that simply is not going to happen".
MP Doug Henderson said "It doesn't seem to me that the public knows any more about the PM's retirement plans. People keep saying to me that the Labour party must have a clear direction forward with clear priorities and a new leader before the May 2007 (regional) elections."
The eight MPs who resigned as junior ministers or parliamentary secretaries, Wednesday, expressed a concern in their resignation letter that Blair needed to go soon in order not to harm the party's prospects in next May's elections to the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly and English local authorities.
Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 when Labour defeated the Conservative government of John Major. He has led the party to three majority victories and promised before the last election that his third term would be his last.
- Beth Gardiner, Associated Press. "Blair promises to quit as PM within a year" — , September 7, 2006
- "I will quit within a year - Blair" — , September 7, 2006
- Matthew Tempest and James Sturcke. "Blair: I'll be gone within a year" — , September 7, 2006
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