Blair is 'bleeding' Labour Party by clinging to power, says MP

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An ally of Gordon Brown has accused Tony Blair of "bleeding the Labour Party at its heart" by clinging on to power and urged him to announce when he will quit.

Don Touhig, sacked as a Defence minister in May, added to the growing demands for Mr Blair to reveal his departure timetable. "We need to resolve this leadership issue sooner rather than later," he said.

His attack came as Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, warned that the Tories could win the next election because Labour has lost touch with its coalition of supporters.

Writing in the New Statesman, Mr Clarke fires a broadside at both Mr Blair and Mr Brown, saying policies should not be made on the hoof and difficult questions not ducked. "Leadership is not only about personality and style, important though those are. It is about policies, politics and a sense of purpose."

Labour critics of Mr Blair denied reports yesterday that they plan to issue a public ultimatum for him to reveal his exit strategy at next month's party conference in Manchester.

One leading critic said: "We want to give him the space to clarify his intentions. Nothing will happen until after the conference. We are not asking him for a firm date. But we want him to say something like 'this is my last conference as leader'. If he says nothing, we will then do something after the conference."

Mr Touhig, a former parliamentary aide to Mr Brown, told the ePolitix.com website that Labour's electoral prospects had been damaged by Mr Blair giving himself a "sell-by date".

He said: "The party wants an indication that a timetable is in mind, that there are positive discussions going on between Tony and Gordon because, whoever else might challenge, the overwhelming view... is that Gordon should be the next leader.

"I want Tony Blair to go out on a high because the party and the country owe him a great deal but he will not be best served if this extended departure goes on and on bleeding the Labour Party at its heart," he said.

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