Tony Blair will go "well before the general election", Jack Straw has claimed, reopening speculation about the timing of the Prime Minister's exit.
He is the most senior minister to have predicted an early departure for Mr Blair, and his remarks will increase the pressure on Mr Blair at his monthly press conference today in Downing Street to set a date for his exit.
Mr Straw's remarks contradict Mr Blair's commitment to "serve a full term". The Prime Minister told backbenchers he would allow his successor "ample time" before the election, but his closest friends have urgedhim to resist pressure to go before 2008.
The row over John Prescott's affair with his secretary, and the embarrassment of the photographs of himplaying croquet on the lawn at Dorneywood, have hastened the timetable for the departure of Mr Blair and his deputy in the view of many MPs. It has fuelled the contest for the deputy leadership, which Mr Straw is expected to enter.Reuse content