Blair: 'It's only me and Gordon at my last rally'

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair has decided only he and Gordon Brown will address the Labour conference, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

The extraordinary ruling, handed down to Cabinet ministers yesterday, prompted immediate speculation that Mr Blair plans to use next month's event to announce his departure.

It also heads off any speech from Labour's deputy, John Prescott, a deeply unpopular figure since he admitted to having an affair with his secretary.

Hazel Blears, Labour's new chairman, was concerned at the prospect of electioneering by ministers jockeying to succeed Mr Prescott. But the move was being interpreted by ministers as a clear signal that the Prime Minister intends to announce a timetable for his departure.

"My feeling is that this shows he knows that he can't get through conference without giving an absolute cast-iron guarantee that it's his last in charge," said one.