Exclusive: Prescott tells Blair: Name the day

The Deputy Prime Minister wants Mr Blair to announce a firm timetable for his departure at the Labour Party conference in a year's time. He hopes that would enable Gordon Brown to take over in the spring or summer of 2007.

Mr Prescott warned Mr Blair that the Labour Party would not tolerate him staying in No 10 without making clear when he will stand down.

The revelation came as party members gathering in Brighton for this year's conference focused on the uncertainty over the timing of Mr Blair's departure from Downing Street.

As allies of the Chancellor urged the Prime Minister to set out a timetable for his plans to step down, Mr Blair in a television interview yesterday refused to divulge details of his departure.

Mr Prescott's warning is revealed in a biography of the Deputy Prime Minister by Colin Brown, The Independent's Deputy Political Editor. It discloses Mr Prescott's anxiety about Mr Blair's intention to serve a "full term" after he won his third election in May, even though he had promised to quit before the next election.

He warned that if Mr Blair prevaricated until the autumn of 2008 Mr Brown could be left with little more than six months as Prime Minister to prepare for the next general election in the spring of 2009.

The book says: "Prescott forcefully relayed the message to Blair that he did not think the party would allow him to carry on, regardless of the election result, for another three or more years."

Allies of the Chancellor confirmed yesterday that they want Mr Blair to announce a timetable by next year's conference to give Mr Brown time to establish himself as Prime Minister before the next general election.

Today Mr Brown will maintain a public truce with Mr Blair by promising that he would not abandon "New Labour" or vacate the political centre ground if he succeeds him.

But some Blair aides continue to hint that he intends to continueon until 2008 in an attempt to complete his public service reforms and cement his political legacy. Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, told GMTV's Sunday programme that Mr Blair could remain in Downing Street until 2008 or 2009. But that would provoke a new rift with Mr Brown.

In an interview with The Independent, Ed Balls, the Labour MP and one of the Chancellor's closest allies, questioned whether Mr Blair was now the right man for the job of renewing the party so that it could address the long-term challenges facing Britain.

He said: "The Labour Party has got to decide what we need to do in relation to long-term policy decisions. That is the issue, not individual ambition or legacies. That is to belittle the challenges and the changes to the party required to meet those challenges".

Although some Blairite cabinet ministers have anointed Mr Brown as Mr Blair's successor in recent days, the Brown camp suspects that the move is designed in part to ensure that the Chancellor allows the Prime Minister more time in Downing Street. Mr Balls said: "The issue is going to be decided by the Labour Party and is not going to be decided by MPs, however junior, and cabinet ministers, however senior. But the party must focus also on how we meet the challenges for the longer term."

In a BBC television interview yesterday, Mr Blair refused to reveal his plans, saying he had not yet make up his mind when he wanted to leave No 10. But he hinted that he will announce a timetable in due course.

The Prime Minister said: "I've spoken about this as much as I want to speak at the moment. There will come a point in time when I'm delighted to speak about it but for the moment I think, you know, we've just won a third election victory, we should concentrate on setting out the agenda for the country."

The biography of Mr Prescott says that tensions between Mr Blair and Mr Brown could reopen if the Chancellor's desire to take over in good time before the next election is frustrated. It quotes a Brown supporter as saying: "[The Blair camp] want to be reasonable, and that is the case at the moment. If that changes, then our attitude will change."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Start a Career as a Financial Markets Trader

£40000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Become a professional Trader a...

Recruitment Genius: Software Implementation Consultant

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Recruitment Genius: Service Desk Co-ordinator / Client Services Administrator

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Warehouse Assistant

£14807 - £15470 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manufacturer and supplier ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks