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Blair endorses Brown as next British PM

For the first time since announcing plans to quit in 2007, the British PM has publicly lent his support to Chancellor Gordon Brown.

world Updated: May 02, 2007 12:41 IST

For the first time since announcing plans in September 2006 to step down from office in 2007, Tony Blair has publicly lent his support to Chancellor Gordon Brown taking over as the next British prime minister "in the next few weeks".

It will be the first time that Britain will be ruled by a prime minister who is Scottish. Brown has been the MP from the Scottish constituencies of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath since 2005 and was the MP for Dunfermline East from 1983 to 2005.

Campaigning in Scotland on Tuesday - the 10th anniversary of being elected to power, Blair said that "in all probability" Brown will succeed him as prime minister "in the next few weeks".

Top leaders of all three major parties have been criss-crossing England, Wales and Scotland to campaign for the May 3 election to local bodies. The elections have been shadowed by the 10th anniversary of Labour coming to power and debate about when before September will Blair announce his pans and ride into the political sunset.

Blair said he would announce his resignation next week, after which he will stay as PM for about seven weeks until Labour chooses his successor. His pro-Brown announcement is significant since he had so far refused to formally endorse Brown as the next PM.

This had led to considerable shadow-boxing within the Labour party with factions seeking to put up candidates such as environment secretary David Miliband, Home secretary John Reid against Brown in the leadership contest.

Speaking on GMTV, Blair said: "I'll make my position clear next week, I'll say something definitive then." He is expected to announce the schedule of his stepping down after results of the May 3 elections are announced next week.

He told a rally on Tuesday: "In all probability a Scot will become prime minister of the United Kingdom, someone who has built our economy into one of the strongest in the world, and who, as I have said many times before, would make a great prime minister for Britain."

Brown, meanwhile, heaped praise on Blair in an article to mark the 10th anniversary. Writing in The Sun, Brown said he was "honoured" to call Blair his "oldest friend in politics", while admitting there had been "ups and downs" along the way.

He praised Blair for standing shoulder to shoulder with America after the Sept 11 attacks, for bringing the 2012 Olympics to London, his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and his handling of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

In a speech, Blair said 10 years of Labour government have left the UK stronger, fairer and better. But as surveys and opinion polls suggested that Iraq would define his legacy in office, Conservative leader David Cameron joined in to criticise his 10 years in office.

He said: "Tony Blair's time as prime minister started with great hope but has ended with disappointment. Tony Blair will be remembered as a successful party leader but not as a good prime minister."