Queen's Speech to set up Blair-Brown handover next year

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are preparing new laws designed to ease the Chancellor into No 10 within 18 months. In the clearest sign yet that Mr Blair plans a handover of power next summer, he is allowing his successor unprecedented influence over the Queen's Speech.

Its centrepiece are measures to promote "democratic renewal", The Independent on Sunday has learnt. The issue is close to Mr Brown's heart and he has been working closely with the Prime Minster on measures to encourage local political participation and citizenship.

The proposed Bill will develop many of the themes outlined in the Chancellor's recent speech on "Britishness", including an updated form of national service.

Ministers have already dubbed the next set of proposed laws the "transition programme" in recognition of the Chancellor's involvement. "The future is likely to be less about 'legacy' and more about continuity," one senior minister said last week.

Mr Brown is also being consulted on further legislation to tackle anti-social behaviour. The so-called respect agenda is proving popular with voters in private polling presented to the Cabinet last month.

And Lord Gould, Mr Blair's private pollster, is said to have told senior ministers that for the first time in its history Labour is more trusted than the Conservatives to protect national security. His polling also suggests that David Cameron has made less impact on voters than many Labour figures had feared.

The research suggests that while the new leader is attractive, he is not trusted. The research will give heart to Mr Brown as he waits for his moment to take over. He is seeking to restrain allies who want to add to the pressure on Mr Blair to set a date for an early departure.

Lord Kinnock was last night reported to be among those urging Mr Blair to set a date for his departure. According to a report in The Sunday Times, the former leader advised the Prime Minister in a meeting before Christmas that the "clock was ticking".

Senior Labour figures warn Labour faces humiliation in the May elections, particularly in London, unless Mr Blair indicates explicitly he will leave office by next year. Canvass returns already show Mr Blair is a liability on the doorstep, they say.