Defeated councillors tell Blair: The sooner you go, the better

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Indy Politics

Defeated Labour councillors have called for Tony Blair to quit immediately, after their party received a hammering in the local elections.

Even New Labour loyalists were saying that it was time for the Prime Minister to go. A snap poll of defeated councillors by The Independent ousted from office in Thursday's elections showed that two-thirds wanted him out of office.

Their attacks came as Labour lost 319 seats and flagship councils, including Camden in north London, which it had held for 35 years.

The Conservatives were the main gainers, redrawing the political map of London by winning Hammersmith and Fulham for the first time since 1968 (when their party leader, David Cameron, was one year old) and gaining 300 seats and 40 per cent of the overall vote.

Reg Freeson, the former Willesden and Brent East MP who was deselected when Ken Livingstone was chosen as the Labour candidate in 1983, lost his Brent council seat. He said: "There's an underlying failure of Labour Party attitudes and principles. Blair should step down tomorrow. Tonight if possible. I've been saying it for quite some time and it is reinforced by this election crisis. The sooner he resigns the better.

"Of course he should announce a firm timetable for standing down and I don't mean a timetable 18 months from now."

Mick Salih, leader of the Labour group on Stoke-on-Trent council and a councillor since 1993, added: "He should have stood down 12 months ago. I don't think he's a socialist prime minister. He is a Tory in disguise and we have all been fooled. He should go as soon as possible."

Albert Clarke, 69, was a Labour councillor in Newcastle-under-Lyme for 16 years until he lost his seat on Thursday. He said: "I think he should have stood down last year. I am as red as you can be, and I would still tell him to his face that he should stand down. He shouldn't set a timetable, he should go. Full stop. If he had gone last year, we would not be in this position."

Rick Everitt, who was defeated as a Labour councillor on Bexley council, said: "He should stand down as soon as possible, definitely before the Labour Party conference in the autumn. Tony Blair has made a great contribution to the party, but the public and party activists have lost faith in him because of the Iraq war and his failures over the health service."

The former mayor of Brent, Abdul Sattar-Butt, blamed the collapse in the Muslim vote for the loss of his seat. He said: "Muslim voters here told me I should be ashamed of the Labour Party. They said the Labour Party's hands are covered in blood. It is what Tony Blair has done with the Iraq war that lost the elections. The Labour Party should just kick him out and say, "You are no good, just please go."

The "Blair must go" view, however, was not unanimously endorsed by the defeated councillors.

Kieron Martin Gavan, from Ealing, said: "There isn't a silver bullet that says get rid of Blair and that's the end of the problem."

Manmohan Sond, also from Ealing, added: "I think he has done a fantastic job. It's the other people who have let him down. People should judge him on the last nine years, not the last 10 days."

Almost all the councillors put the loss of their seats down to national issues, and the controversies surrounding Charles Clarke and John Prescott.

Mick Curran, from Warrington, said: "They completely overshadowed the campaign. It was absolutely disgusting the way the Government let all the local councillors down."

Additional reporting by Geneviève Roberts, Terry Kirby, Rebekah Curtis, Hickmet Rahman, Ambur Beg, Vincent Smit, Siddika Khalique and Alex Rabagliati

Beaten Labour candidates

* KEITH BOBBIN, BASILDON

"He should stand down soon. He is only hanging on to pass Margaret Thatcher's record in power. He should have gone after last year's election. I think that Tony Blair was a liability to the party and local members are leaving the party."

* ABDUL SATTAR-BUTT, BRENT

"Muslim voters here told me I should be ashamed of the Labour Party. They said Labour's hands are covered in blood. Muslim workers, even Muslim kids, have told me that."

* BERT LAWTON, PORTHILL, NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME

"Instead of being an asset, Tony Blair has become a liability. I feel I have lost my seat on national issues, not local issues. He should go now."

* STEPHEN PERKINS, BURY

"Tony Blair should stand down soon. However, it should not just be a knee-jerk reaction. Labour needs time to build up again. There should be a gradual move towards a new leader. He should stand down towards the end of the year."

* ALBERT CLARKE, NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME

"I think Blair should have stood down last year. I am as red as you can be, and I would still tell him to his face that he should stand down. He should go. Full stop. If he had gone last year, we would not be in this position."

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