Blair: Three out of five voters say he lied over Saddam threat

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Indy Politics

Three out of five people believe that Tony Blair lied over the threat posed by Iraqi weapons in the run-up to war, according to an NOP poll for The Independent.

But the survey suggests that replacing Mr Blair with Gordon Brown would not boost Labour's appeal. The Prime Minister will today deliver a barely coded rebuke to his Chancellor by warning that the Government cannot take the soft option on its public service reforms.

The NOP poll, conducted at the weekend, found that 41 per cent of people want Mr Blair to resign as Prime Minister, while 52 per cent do not. Fifty-nine per cent think Mr Blair lied over the Iraqi threat, while 29 per cent do not.

The good news for Mr Blair is that Labour, on 38 per cent, enjoys a nine-point lead over the Tories (29 per cent), who are only narrowly ahead of the Liberal Democrats, on 27 per cent. If Mr Brown were Prime Minister, Labour's lead would increase by one percentage point.

With Mr Blair's leadership being called into question by his own party as never before, there were signs of tension between him and Mr Brown over the Government's direction. Yesterday the Chancellor won a rapturous response at the conference when he said that the party was "best when we are Labour". He pointedly refused to mention the Blairite "New Labour" mantra.

In his keynote speech to Labour's annual conference, the Prime Minister will say: "The decisions taken must be the right ones, not the easy ones." His words will be seen as a deliberate riposte to Mr Brown. Cabinet ministers loyal to Mr Blair saw Mr Brown's address as an attempt to stake out different ground. One said: "Gordon was saying we can have the reforms as long as we keep the party united. That means taking the soft option."

Mr Blair will insist that his reforms are completely in line with Labour's traditional values, declaring: "Reform is the route to social justice."

The Prime Minister will say that there can be no "retreat" from his changes but will try to win over his critics by promising that the next phase of his New Labour project, "renewal", will include a different style of governing. He will pledge "dialogue and debate" before policy decisions are announced. Mr Blair will insist that nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of "getting the best" for the British people.