Blair set to make announcement on his future

Tony Blair is expected to set a date for his resignation as British prime minister when he makes an announcement about his future on Thursday.

Blair, who notched up 10 years in power last week, is expected to stay as prime minister and Labour Party leader until a successor can take over at the end of June or early July.

Finance Minister Gordon Brown, with whom Blair has had a close but uneasy relationship, appears certain to win a seven-week Labour Party leadership contest.

Blair is ”expected to make an announcement tomorrow [Thursday] on his future,” a Labour Party source said on Wednesday, without giving details.

Blair is Labour’s most successful leader, winning three national elections in a row.

But his popularity has been hit by the war in Iraq and political scandals and he was forced by a Labour rebellion in September to say he would leave power within a year.

In elections last week, Blair’s Labour Party lost its position as the biggest party in the Scottish Parliament to nationalists seeking independence from Britain.

In English local elections, the opposition Conservatives won about 40% of the vote to Labour’s 27%.

One by one over recent weeks, potential heavyweight challengers for the leadership have said they will not challenge Brown, long regarded as Blair’s heir.

That leaves two left-wing lawmakers — John McDonnell and Michael Meacher — as the only declared leadership contenders.

They have agreed that the one with the most support will press ahead with his challenge and the other will drop out.

But it is uncertain whether they will be able to win the backing of the 45 members of Parliament needed to get on the leadership election ballot.

Conservative leader David Cameron mocked Blair’s team in Parliament on Wednesday, calling it the ”government of the living dead” and asking why Britain had to put up with seven weeks of paralysis while Labour chose a new leader.

Blair insisted he remained in charge.

”I’ll tell him [Cameron] what I’ll be concentrating on in the next seven weeks and that is policy — the policies for the economy and health and education and law and order,” he said.

Blair’s spokesperson was also at pains to quash charges that Blair would now be a ”lame duck” prime minister.

”You will see the prime minister in action over the coming weeks both domestically … but also internationally, particularly in the run-up to the G8 [Group of Eight] summit [and] the European Union summit,” he said.

The summit of the G8 leading industrial countries takes place in Germany from June 6 to 8. The EU summit in Brussels is on June 21 and 22. — Reuters

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Adrian Croft
Adrian Croft works from London, England. Reuters sub-editor in London. Previously Reuters European Defence Editor in Brussels and before that reported from UK, Spain, U.S., Latin America, South Africa. Adrian Croft has over 929 followers on Twitter.

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