LONDON – British Prime Minister Tony Blair faced down a looming rebellion from within his Labor Party on Monday, refusing demands from colleagues to name the date he would leave his job.
“To state a timetable now would simply paralyze the proper working of government,” Blair told a news conference. “It wouldn’t end this distraction but would take it to a new level.”
The Times of London published a poll today showing Labor at its lowest level of popularity since 1992, five years before Blair came to power.
A draft letter circulating among Labor members of Parliament demanded that Blair set a timetable for a “stable and orderly transition” of power to a new Labor leader and was reported in the British press to have been signed by 50 Labor parliamentarians.
Before a meeting between Blair and Labor members of Parliament on Monday evening, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported that only four of the parliamentarians thought Blair should wait to step down until his term in office ends, which could be as late as 2010. Instead, 26 wanted him to go at once, another 26 wanted him out within a year and 29 supported Blair’s right to go “when he likes.”
Blair replied: “There are those who genuinely want me to honor the commitment to a stable and orderly transition. And I repeat, I will honor it, with the time plainly needed for my successor to establish himself.”