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'Blair to continue as PM for at least another year'

Blair, 53, had led the Labour Party to a record third successive election victory last year.

india Updated: Aug 06, 2006 07:08 IST

Tony Blair has told his colleagues that he plans to stay on as the British prime minister for at least another year, defying calls from members of his own party to step down sooner, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

Blair, 53, had led the Labour Party to a record third successive election victory last year.

But his popularity has since then slumped amid government scandals over sex, incompetence and alleged sleaze, fuelling calls from some Labour legislators for him to set a timetable to leave office after he pledged not to stand at the next election.

Blair's refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Lebanon has deepened divisions in the party, further weakening his authority.

However, The Sunday Telegraph said that Blair had no intention of giving up the reins to finance minister Gordon Brown, his expected successor, any time soon.

"He is talking about at least another year," the newspaper quoted an unidentified "close colleague" as saying.

"He doesn't intend his current summer holiday to be the last one he takes as the prime minister."

The newspaper said that Blair's decision could lead to "a new war" with Brown, who has made no secret of his ambition to take over as party leader and prime minister.

The report said that Brown and a large number of Labour members of the parliament wanted Blair to hand over power shortly after his 10th anniversary in power in May 2007.

But it said some Labour politicians believed that Blair had set his sights on surpassing the 11.5-year tenure of Margaret Thatcher, the longest-serving British prime minister of the last 100 years. That would take him to November 2008.

Any attempt by Blair to go on much beyond May 2007 would risk provoking a leadership challenge from Brown and a full-scale attempt by Labour legislators to remove him, the newspaper said.

First Published: Aug 06, 2006 07:08 IST