Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown Turns Screw on Blair with Maggie Thatcher Snipe

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown Turns Screw on Blair with Maggie Thatcher Snipe

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

GORDON BROWN today piled the pressure on Tony Blair to honour his promise to stand down early.

In pointed comments, he recalled how Margaret Thatcher was turfed out of office in an "unstable, disorderly and undignified" way.

He revealed that Mr Blair will be holding talks with "senior colleagues" as well as the Chancellor about detailed arrangements for a handover of power, meaning that Cabinet heavyweights like John Prescott will witness any deals.

His words seemed calculated to ensure Mr Blair does not back down from the commitment he gave to MPs last night to give his successor "ample time" to settle in before the next election. At the same time, more evidence emerged that Mr Blair could go as early as next year. Close ally Ruth Kelly refused to rule out an early departure and Deputy Prime Minister Mr Prescott hinted in an interview that an announcement about the handover could come at this autumn's party conference.

A new poll revealed the price Labour is paying for the internal warfare at the top - a slump to 30 per cent, its worst rating since 1992 when the Tories last won an election. A cheerful-looking Mr Brown made ster made clear they do not wholly trust Mr Blair to honour his commitment, made after senior MPs joined calls for a handover timetable.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating," said one. "People will want practical evidence that the talks with Gordon and senior ministers are covering practical issues about a handover."

Asked if Mr Blair had given a firm date, Mr Brown replied: "No, and I think what he is going to do is talk to senior colleagues about it."

The need to unite or risk defeat was underlined today by Mr Prescott. He urged MPs to be patient until the party conference, suggesting an announcement might come then. "I do say to people, don't get into a war about it now. …

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