Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

PM 'Risks Election Reverse'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

PM 'Risks Election Reverse'

Article excerpt

Byline: By Ross Smith

Tony Blair was warned last night against alienating his Northern heartland, after two of his most loyal allies made the case for an unashamedly New Labour election manifesto.

Two interviews in two days by former cabinet ministers Stephen Byers and Alan Milburn have urged the Prime Minister not to retreat and to be bolder and more ambitious in a third term in office.

But MPs and union leaders warned the Prime Minister he risks votes in the North by pressing ahead with controversial public service reforms, after pushing through policies on foundation hospitals and student top-up fees this year.

Veteran left winger Ronnie Campbell said many in the North already see Sedgefield MP Mr Blair as a "Tory" and could switch to the Liberal Democrats if the reforms mean more private sector involvement in public services.

The warnings came after Darling-

ton MP Alan Milburn dismissed speculation Mr Blair will stand down before the next General Election.

Yesterday, Mr Milburn said: "His appetite is undiminished. There's a job to do and he wants to continue to do it, he wants to fight and win a third term and he wants to serve a full third term.

"One of the ways you deal with the `Is Tony going or staying?' question is through the manifesto. Actions speak louder than words. If the manifesto is unashamedly Blairite, then people will draw the right conclusions. He has not only written it, he is going to implement it. Manifestos tend to take a full term."

Yesterday The Journal reported how North Tyneside MP Stephen Byers, warned the Prime Minister's long term future would be in doubt if the next manifesto was not bold and ambitious - and Blairite. Former Health Secretary Mr Milburn echoed Mr Byers' view that the Prime Minister should use a third term to stamp his mark on the political landscape. …

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