Labour peer tells Blair to step down as Prime Minister

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

The current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is Tony Blair. He leads the Labour Party and has been in office since 1997.

Lord Hattersley, the former deputy leader of the Labour party, has said Tony Blair should stand down as British Prime Minister in September.

He said the party would be damaged if Mr Blair remained in Downing Street after this year's Labour conference, which will be held in Manchester in two months' time.

"The Prime Minister ought not to announce he's going at party conference - he ought to go at party conference," he told GMTV's Sunday Programme. "The longer he stays on, the more damaging it is for him as well as the party in my view."

The Labour peer said Mr Blair should highlight the successes his party has achieved since gaining power in 1997. "Then he should say the time has come to pass the torch on to somebody else and thank the party for what they've done. ... If we did that I think he’d go out on a high note in the party. I think that'll ripple out through the country."

Lord Hattersley, who was the former MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook, added that Scottish chancellor Gordon Brown was the best heir to Mr Blair. "I think Gordon Brown increasingly becomes the ideal next leader of the Labour party," he said.

"I think what the Labour party needs to win the next election is a solemn, serious, if you like, son of the manse."

"Somebody with visibly and almost ostentatiously contemptuous of spin who wants simply to say it as it is," he added.

But Mr Blair, who is currently in St Petersburg for the G8 summit, said he would be Prime Minister when the gathering is held again next summer.

"I've made it clear all the way through that I'll carry on doing the job," he told BBC One's The Politics Show today.

Liberal Democrat party president Simon Hughes said: "Roy Hattersley's call for the prime minister to go this year just piles on the pressure.

"Every month that passes looks more and more like the end of the Blair era. The chosen date for going is, of course, a personal decision and principally a Labour party concern.

"But good government for Britain and our reputation abroad requires a prime minister with a future not a past, and a prime minister who commands authority in his party as well as the support of the British people."

Cash-for-honours

Lord Hattersley also said in the interview that recent cash-for-honours claims were "deeply damaging" to Labour.

The party's chief fundraiser and Middle East envoy, Lord Levy, was this week arrested and bailed by the Metropolitan Police over allegations he was nominated for a peerage after lending money to the party before the last election.

But Tony Blair has said there is nothing wrong with peerages being given to party backers.

"Nobody in the Labour party to my knowledge has sold honours or sold peerages," Mr Blair told The Politics Show.

"The fact that is sometimes excluded from the public's mind in relation to this debate is that there are places in the House of Lords that are reserved for party nominees for their party supporters."

Police are also investigating the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats to see if they have given peerages in return for money.

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