Blunkett plays down need for Tory support in vote

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Indy Politics

Allies of Tony Blair are playing down the impact of his need to rely on the votes of Tory MPs to win a crucial Commons vote on his schools reforms.

David Blunkett, the former cabinet minister, dismissed suggestions that the Prime Minister's authority would be undermined if, as expected, a Labour backbench rebellion forces him to push through his Education Bill with Tory support.

Ministers claimed yesterday that the revolt was fading after some potential rebels said they would back the Bill in its second reading vote next Wednesday. But opponents insisted that 50 Labour MPs would oppose the measure and another 20 would abstain.

Some allies have warned the Prime Minister not to rely on the opposition's support. Stephen Byers, another former minister, has said Mr Blair's position would become "untenable" if he did so.

But Mr Blunkett told tomorrow's Sunday Programme on GMTV that wrangling over how the Bill is passed would be seen by ordinary voters as an "internal Westminster game". He added: "I don't think in those circumstances, this great hype about, 'Will it all or will it not be a seminal moment for Tony?' should be taken anywhere near as seriously as people have."

Mr Blunkett said backbench opposition was now restricted to the "usual suspects" and others who would not accept that their concerns had been dealt with in a listening process that had been a "triumph" for the party, he said.

The former work and pensions secretary revealed that he has moved out of the his grace-and-favour home in Belgravia, where he remained after his resignation last November.

He said: "I'm flying on my own now, but I was there eight years and it did take a little time, because I couldn't oust somebody from their flat. I had to wait until they moved out."