Blair will tell Labour activists he shares frustration

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair has responded to last week's election protest by Labour's core supporters by insisting he shares their frustration over delays in delivering the Government's promises.

The Prime Minister reacted to the worst results since he came to power by telling supporters that the Government understands the discontent but its strategy is for the long term.

It came as Labour lost control of Watford, Hertfordshire, which declared its result yesterday after an experiment with weekend voting.

The change was intended to increase the number of people voting, but turn-out fell from 36 per cent to 27 per cent and the defeat brought the number of authorities lost by Labour to 16.

Mr Blair says in an interview with The Times today that he accepts the "frustrations" of Labour voters and wishes the pace of change was quicker.

A Downing Street source said: "We are very aware of what people are saying and share their frustrations but it is one of the prices you pay for long-term decision making."

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, will reject demands today by party activists for the Government to focus more on the Labour heartlands, and will insist that it has to stick to its strategy of refusing a general increase in welfare hand-outs without modernisation of the system. Committing the Government to fulfil the "historic mission as a New Labour" administration, he will say there can be no "short-term quick fixes" to delivering security and opportunity.

However, Whitehall sources confirmed that Mr Brown is planning to give an extra boost to pensioners who led the protests in last week's elections over the 75p per week rise in the basic pension. The Chancellor said in his Budget that the state pension next year would be increased by £3 per week for couples and £2 for single pensioners on present inflation forecasts. He is expected to go further by providing an extra pension credit for the elderly with small occupational pensions.

The importance of the pensions backlash is highlighted today by the former minister Peter Kilfoyle. Writing in The Independent, he warns Mr Brown it would be "a grave mistake" if he simply used his £22.5bn windfall from the sale of mobile phone licences to repay a tiny fraction of national debt.