Blair: I will serve another full term as Prime Minister

Tony Blair will declare that he intends to serve a full third term as Prime Minister if Labour wins the next general election in a move that would mean he remains in Downing Street for another five or six years.

Mr Blair's message, which will risk comparisons with Margaret Thatcher's pledge to "go on and on", will infuriate his Labour critics at a time when his leadership is under renewed fire because of the deepening problems in Iraq.

It also risks further widening the split between Mr Blair and Gordon Brown, who is furious at being sidelined from his key role in Labour's election campaign. That was handed to the Blairite Alan Milburn in this month's cabinet reshuffle.

Blair aides told The Independent yesterday that a decision had been taken in principle that Mr Blair would state his intention to serve a full term before the election. One option was to "clear the air" by saying it before Labour's annual conference in Brighton, which starts tomorrow. But allies say this will not happen now as it would be insensitive to talk about his long-term ambitions during the hostage crisis in Iraq.

After coming through his "wobble" this spring about whether to stand down this year, Mr Blair seems determined to stay on for longer than expected. There is a widespread view at Westminster that he will leave No 10 in 2006 after a referendum on the European Union constitution.

Close aides insist that Mr Blair's move is not a slapdown to Mr Brown, seen by many in the Labour Party as the clear front-runner to succeed him. They insist that the Prime Minister wants the Chancellor to be a "big player" in a "team leadership". Mr Brown's supporters fear that, the longer Mr Blair stays on, the more the Chancellor's chances of becoming Prime Minister will recede. At 53, he is two years older than Mr Blair and some Blairites believe he has "missed his moment". They say Mr Blair will risk a backlash from the Brownites by serving a third term because the Chancellor proved he was unwilling to be "an assassin" this year.

Mr Blair's pledge will also risk accusations of arrogance. His aides insist that he does not want to talk about his future but he has to come up with a formula to answer the questions about how long he intends to serve. The Conservatives have already floated plans to use "Vote Blair, Get Brown" as an election slogan.

A close Blair ally said yesterday: "We don't want the election dominated by speculation about whether Tony will serve for another one, two or three years. So he will say that he stands for election for a full term.

"It's not aimed at Gordon [Brown]. He will probably go ballistic but he never plunges in the dagger."

Although the Labour conference may be eclipsed by events in Iraq, it may provide a clue to Mr Blair's long-term intentions. Aides say he is "re-energised" about the Government's domestic agenda and determined to see through the five-year plans on health, education, transport and crime unveiled this summer. "The aim at the conference is to show that we fight for a third term on a New Labour agenda and that it will be a Blair-led government that implements it," one cabinet minister said.

Mr Blair has always been anxious not to repeat Baroness Thatcher's mistake of overstaying her welcome in Downing Street. In 1987, she pledged to "go on and on" and won her third election. She rejected the idea of quitting after 10 years as Prime Minister in 1989 and the following year was forced to resign by her Cabinet and MPs.

If he completes an election hat-trick, Mr Blair would complete 10 years at Number 10 in 2007, an obvious time to reconsider his own "on and on" pledge. But colleagues believe his new-found confidence and decision to reassert his authority over the Cabinet mean that he could stay on for longer than 10 years and lead Labour into a fourth election.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us