Thu, May 11, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Former UK minister deals another blow to embattled Blair

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's hopes of calming the row about the timing of his departure suffered a blow on Tuesday when another party loyalist warned that without a change in the style of leadership, the Labour Party could lose the next election.

John Denham, a former Home Office minister, said in an interview that the party "needs a change in leadership style that brings more people into judgments about what policy direction we should take."

Denham said the parliamentary Labour Party was pleased to have been told by Blair on Monday that there would be a stable and orderly transition, but said "people now want to see some evidence of it."

He predicted that without any change, there would be another year of "drift and division" which would probably make Labour unelectable.

Like many mainstream Labour members of parliament, Denham was concerned by the "very dangerous polarization" between the pro- and anti-Blair camps on the weekend.

He accused Home Secretary John Reid of "quite outrageously claiming that everyone who is critical is against change."

But he also said that attempts by the pressure group Compass to organize letters demanding the Blair's resignation sounded "very much like the 1980s," when Labour was terribly divided.

In a sign that unease with Blair's leadership revolves around policies as much as personalities, Denham said the prime minister's agenda, which focuses on antisocial behavior and public service reform, looked dated. He said issues such as housing, the environment, managing working lives and working out the challenges caused by migration had shot up the public agenda, but had not shot up the government's agenda.

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