Brown thinks Blair will leave in an `orderly fashion'

PLUNGING POLLS: A new opinion survey shows Labour's support at a 14-year low, with half of the respondents wanting a new leader within a year


Wed, May 10, 2006 - Page 7

The man likely to replace British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday he believes Blair will arrange a dignified and orderly exit from the post.

An opinion poll published yesterday, which pegged the governing Labour Party's support at a 14-year low, found that half the respondents hoped that Blair would resign within a year.

"I think we can prove to the world that we can do these things in a unified and proper way," Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said in an interview with GMTV.

Blair reaffirmed on Monday that intended to step down before the next national election, and that he would leave his successor sufficient time to settle into the job. He confirmed that Brown was his choice to take over. But he rejected a growing cacophony of calls for him to name the day that he intends to resign.

"To state a timetable would simply paralyze the proper working of government, put at risk the necessary changes we are making for Britain and therefore damage the country. It wouldn't end this distraction but merely take it to a new level," Blair said.

"The public are the boss. If we are not careful and don't get on with the business of governing, we will lose them," he said.

Brown said Blair had not told him of the date on which he intends to leave.

"I think what he is going to do is talk to senior colleagues about it," Brown said.

In the Populus poll published yesterday by the Times, Labour fell to 30 percent support, eight points behind the main opposition Conservatives.

Labour's level of support was down six points from the previous month. The drop apparently reflected the impact of revelations that more than a thousand foreign prisoners had been released without being considered for deportation, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's admission of an extramarital affair and continued calls from some sections of the Labour Party for Blair to stand down.

Following Labour's third-place finish in local elections last week, Blair shook up the Cabinet. Charles Clarke, who was held responsible for the prisoners debacle, lost his job as home secretary and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was demoted.

In the poll, 72 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that the reshuffle was intended to distract attention from the government's problems, and 54 percent said the government's biggest problem was Blair himself. Half of the respondents wanted Blair to leave within a year, including 28 percent of those who identified themselves as Labour supporters.

The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,509 adults from Friday to Sunday, and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.