Will Blair cost councillors their posts?

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Indy Politics

More than a third of Labour councillors feel Tony Blair's continued presence in office will damage their chances in next May's local authority elections, a survey by The Independent has discovered.

Although a majority of the 70 councillors contacted in England and Scotland - there are no municipal elections in Wales or London - felt their prospects would not be harmed, most said this was due to the fact that local issues would be uppermost in voters minds.

A significant number of councillors indicated that, whatever the outcome in the elections or their personal position on Mr Blair, the turmoil of recent days and the prospect of a protracted transition to a new leader were fundamentally unsettling for the party.

In the survey, The Independent asked the councillors: "Do you think you or your party's chances of being re-elected in next May's local elections will be damaged if Tony Blair is still in office?" Thirty councillors responded "Yes", 25 said "No", while seven said they were unsure, or didn't know.

There was little evidence of bias according to geography, although three out of four Labour group leaders of big metropolitan borough councils spoken to - Dudley and Coventry in the West Midlands and Rochdale in the North-west, all expressed a desire for Mr Blair to go quickly.

David Sparks, leader of the Labour opposition on Dudley Council, said he believed the country needed a period of stability in the run-up to the elections.

"I think our chances here will be damaged if Tony Blair is still in power next May. We are fighting a life or death struggle against the British National Party here and this latest episode of self indulgent politicking is beyond belief.''