Sunday, April 30, 2006

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: We ask Prime Minister Blair the BIG questions on his blackest week ever


By Ian Kirby

PRIME Minister Tony Blair has refused to rule out sacking his embattled Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

In an exclusive News of the World interview he admitted there were "no excuses" for the catalogue of errors that allowed 1,023 foreign prisoners to be freed without deportation.

And the PM revealed the Home Secretary's long-term future would "depend on what happens" as officials and police try to trace lost offenders.

At the end of his worst week —but before the latest revelations about John Reid—the News of the World asked Mr Blair the toughest questions.

And in a combative question-and-answer session at 10 Downing Street, the PM:

ADMITTED he was "angry" at the prisoners debacle.

BLANKED questions about John Prescott.

INSISTED the week's events have made him more determined to stay on and complete his reforms.

ATTACKED the legal establishment for putting criminals before victims.

PROMISED new laws and police powers to combat anti-social behaviour.


News of the World: What was your reaction when you were told about the prisoners?

PRIME MINISTER: The reaction you'd expect—pretty angry about it. But it was important to get to the facts and see what people had been trying to do. I make no excuses for what happened, it was wrong and shouldn't have happened. The reason the problem was uncovered was because people started to make changes.

We had no knowledge until we started to work through the system about whether foreign prisoners were being deported.

NOTW: We still have no idea where most of them are or what they are capable of...

PM: It is important to say that of the 1,023 prisoners, 355 have been dealt with. They will work through the rest of them. I'm saying none of this in mitiga-tion—just presenting the facts.

This is a systemic failure that goes back over years. That's no excuse not for us to have sorted it out. What isn't correct is the impression this is a problem that has just arisen.

NOTW: Was it a quick decision for you not to accept the Home Secretary's resignation?

PM: Yes, because my point is: In the time he's been Home Secretary has he been trying to sort it out? Actually he has.

NOTW: But a News of the World reader would say, ‘Hold on, at what point does someone become responsible?'

PM: I think it's a fair point.

NOTW: When you look at our polls or randomly dip into our mailbag crime is the number one issue. People are sick of living in fear. But from that, surely, comes some accountability? He's known about this for some time.

PM: Yes, but he has been acting on it. That's where I disagree with people who say he's ignored it. He hasn't.

NOTW: Do we know where these people are?

PM: No, but this is a backlog going back over many years, including many years before he was Home Secretary.

NOTW: What changes have you put in place to stop this and isn't there a wider problem —the deportation system is overstretched, it cannot cope?

PM: We have made it easier to deport people. There is a strong case for saying people who are guilty of serious criminal offences and are foreign nationals—unless there is some very, very good reason—should be deported.

NOTW: If a serious crime is committed by one of these prisoners, does the situation regarding the Home Secretary change?

PM: I don't think I'm going to speculate. It depends on what happens, what the reasons are.

NOTW: The British crime survey last week said that two thirds of the public think sentences are too lenient. Why do courts refuse to get tough?

PM: The frustration for me is that I have been introducing legislation the public would support but we are constantly getting it watered down.

Its time to have a proper national debate about what we want our system to do.

NOTW: Why are victims' needs not being put first by courts?

PM: It's borne out of a completely mistaken view of civil liberties, because the civil liberty that should matter most is the right to be safe, free from fear.

NOTW: Surely you can pass whatever laws you want but if judges don't hand out the sentences it means nothing?

PM: Look, the judges should do their job and do it utterly independently of government. But judicial decisions don't happen in a different country, a different society. That's why you need to have a discussion about what's necessary.

NOTW: Do you believe in instant justice?

PM: The reason we introduced on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices is to say that you need an instant remedy. If they get a £100 fine they might think twice about doing it again.

NOTW: But judges have used the Human Rights Act to block this sort of justice and challenge tough sentencing.

PM: Yes, but it is perfectly right for courts to say that there are other human rights that have to be put in balance here.

NOTW: But they're not saying that, are they?

PM: No, and that's why I say that in the end this is not just about the laws we pass. It's about an attitude we have about the issue of civil liberties.

NOTW: Are you saying some judges put civil liberties ahead of public safety?

PM: I think it is that the system we have is not sufficiently geared to concerns of people.

NOTW: Do you regret the Human Rights Act?

PM: No, because all the Act did was give people the ability to challenge the government in this country. They already had that right in Europe.


NOTW: May I ask you about your legacy?

PM: What? The ‘L' word we don't use?

NOTW: What jobs do you still have to do?

PM: The most important thing for me is to carry on the programme on the NHS, our schools, this whole business to do with anti-social behaviour and respect on our streets, which I believe passionately in and think are the things that people really expect me to do.

I'm not saying we haven't made mistakes, but what I can say is that if you look back over eight or nine years in the local communities it's very hard to say things have not improved. That's not to say there are not still massive challenges.

NOTW: Does a week like this make you more determined to see those changes through?

PM: Yes. The pressure, especially the longer you have been there, gets more intense.


The comparison with Black Wednesday is quite interesting. Black Wednesday was the day the government lost control of the economy, interest rates shot up and this was a fundamental moment of the collapse of the government's policy.

I'm not saying this has not been a bad week because it obviously has been, but I don't feel that's where we're heading.

The very fact that a minister getting booed at a union conference is seen as the equivalent of Black Wednesday— well, hang on a minute!

First, is what she's trying to do right or wrong? Second, are there actually improvements in the service? Third. This is what happens when you are in government. Particularly if you go to address a conference where people have a particular interest.

If you measure the seriousness of this against the collapse of economic policy I think you see the world of difference that there is.

For me, the tough week is just another tough week.


NOTW: You said you were annoyed at the treatment Pat Hewitt got. Would you agree that the NHS has had its best year yet?

PM: I know that everyone is going to deride it, but what's the best way of measuring whether the NHS is doing well or not? It's by the results.

And all I can say is get a sense of balance. If you go to an accident and emergency department it is a different experience than it was four or five years ago. And if you are waiting for a heart operation you will wait for a lot shorter time than you did eight years ago.

Although you will have readers who have had bad experiences from the NHS, you will have many who have had excellent treatment.


NOTW: John Prescott, from 1995 to 1997, was at the forefront of the attacks on John Major over sleaze. He may now regret saying morality for a Tory meant not getting caught.

Prime Minister: I don't want to be difficult about it, but I don't want to comment on it.

NOTW: OK, let's not make it specific to John Prescott. It was a big part of your campaign to talk about your moral code.

PM: Yes, but I don't think I talked about the private lives of Tories. It would be a very bold political leader who says there will never be any problems in the personal lives of any of my ministers.

NOTW: Sure, but from the point of the readers, they completely bought into the idea of a sleaze-free Cabinet. We now have a Deputy PM who, having made his own attacks on the Tories, has been caught out.

PM: How many different ways do you want me to say nothing? There's nothing I can say except I think these are private matters and I don't think anybody in politics should cast stones at other people on that.

In respect of the Tories I don't think you would ever have found me making comments about their private lives.


NOTW: What new powers can you promise for this autumn?

PM: ASBOs do work but they can be difficult to get.

I think there is a case for allowing a senior police officer to impose an instant ASBO that then comes to court at a later time, so they can halt the offending behaviour straight away and then come to court at a later time so you can decide what happens to a person.

Breaching drug testing and treatment orders should be an arrestable offence. I've spoken to police officers who are fed up with people who breach their orders.

They can't arrest them for it and then it's months before they come back before the courts again.

I also think for people who sell drugs to youngsters there should be a minimum sentence. We do this for gun crime, and for unlawful possession of a firearm now is a minimum five-year sentence.


On organised crime we need stronger powers to be able to open up the bank accounts and financial circumstances of people who have got no particular visible means of support but are living a lifestyle wholly inconsistent with that.

There is a very strong case in my view for allowing the police to seize cash or assets above £1,000 in value in circumstances where they suspect someone is involved in drug dealing.

Now that would give you an immediate ability to take a car or the cash off people who are operating in local communities.

I still think there is a gap between the powers needed on the ground to try to do some of these things and what is there now. What's there now is working when it's being used—there are drug dealers' houses being shut down, crack houses are being shut down. There are anti-social behaviour orders that do actually work when they are secured.

There are situations where as a result of people being tested for drugs on arrest they don't get bail if they're not prepared to take treatment for their addiction.

PRESCOTT: How he risked everything for lust


By James Weatherup

TWO-SHAGS John Prescott is under new pressure after lurid claims in his mistress's sex diaries that they had FOUR shags a night.

Tracey Temple sensationally claims she gave the Deputy Prime Minister sex in his office as he was going though his government papers.

And, the News of the World can reveal, the secret affair only ended in the LAST MONTH, not in 2004, as the Deputy Prime Minister claimed.

In a series of devastating entries, leather-trousered secretary Tracey reveals how Prescott:

ROMPED with her in the afternoons in his office and at his plush grace-and-favour London home, Admiralty House

INDULGED in seedy phone sex when they couldn't be together

TOOK the secretary back to his flat to bed her immediately after they'd attended the Iraq war memorial service with the Queen

PERFORMED like a tiger and was incredibly enthusiastic in bed despite his age and bulk

SNEAKED into her room for sex at a hotel while trusting wife Pauline waited downstairs.

As bookies slashed the odds on his survival, lardy Prescott, 67, was holed up grim-faced inside his Hull mansion.

And temptress Tracey, 43, who loves to wear red leather trousers in all weathers, was facing the sack from his department over her embarrassing revelations.

But at the same time she bitterly accused Prescott of betraying her. She is furious that "lots of lies" have been told about her and protests she has been "dumped."

She said: "He exploited power for his own sexual gratification. We made love in John's office. We were lucky we never got caught."

Tracey, who has had flings with a string of other married men, logged their secret romps in astonishingly graphic and explicit hand-written diaries which reveal Prescott was a tiger in bed.

The man known as Two Jags was more than Two Shags. Three, and on one occasion even FOUR, times a night was common.

And she recorded breathlessly that she was delighted he was such a practised and adventurous lover with the passion and stamina of a man half his age.

She confided that she found it impossible to believe she was the first woman with whom the married Deputy Prime Minister had been unfaithful—because of his expert technique

She said "I find it unlikely that I am the first—or that I will be the last!"

The diaries records details of frantic, wild sex in his grand office at the Cabinet Office, at Admiralty House and at Dorneywood, his official country residence.

She also details another occasion in a Southampton hotel when Prescott had sex with her in her bedroon then brazenly went down to join Pauline—who was with them on an official trip—for dinner.

She also claims that Prescott had a string of lovers during his political career, including a parliamentary candidate 20 years ago.

And one of her diary items in the Mail on Sunday recalls how after the solemn Iraq war memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral, attended by the Queen, Prescott whisked her back to his flat desperate for a sex romp.

She says: "The service was nice. Had to go back to the flat with the boss. He can be a randy old sod at times coz he wanted sex again he was so up for it though."

She tells how he would regularly grope and grapple her during the working day. And when unable to be together they would coldly indulge in sordid phone sex.

Sometimes she would go to his flat once or twice a week, other weeks not at all. She said: "It was usually spontaneous. I would stay no more than an hour. We would have sex."

She recalls they first made love on Thursday Dec 19, 2002, the day after the office Christmas party. Tracey agreed to go back to Prescott's flat and as she walked in he started kissing her and undressing her. He carried her into the bedroom and went out of his way to make sure she was satisfied.

They had sex, then went into the kitchen for a coffee. She asked him if he had any regrets and he told her he hadn't.

Soon it was a full-blown affair. A pal told the News of the World how they used to have a secret code when they were in the office.

"He'd slip off to his flat and arrange for her to bring him something he'd forgotten. She'd then sneak off through the internal corridors"

We can also reveal that Tracey, Prescott's diary secretary, carried on having secret sex sessions with the passionate Deputy Prime Minister until just a few weeks ago.

One source added: "I think it only stopped when they were rumbled." Whitehall sources believe Prescott claimed the affair was historic in a desperate bid to get forgiveness from wife Pauline.

However, Prezza and Tracey continued with secret meetings at Prescott's Admiralty House flat until very recently. And the pair were even together in the days before the news of the affair broke.

When that happened her bosses initially supported her. They whisked her on to a plane to stay with her mother in the South of France and arranged new phone numbers.

But now she faces the sack for breaking the strict civil service code of behaviour. Having an affair with a minister is not in breach of it but speaking to the media without permission or selling a story is an instant sacking offence.

Last night furious Tracey hit out at the way she'd been treated

She said: "A lot of lies have been put about about me which have been very upsetting and distressing to me and my family.

"I have done nothing to bring this upon myself. Yes, I had an affair. Yes, John Prescott and I had an affair."

On how Prescott issued a statement confirming his adultery, Tracey added: "He wasn't going to say anything about it, and I certainly wasn't. But I wasn't given any choice!"

She claimed that since the affair became public she has been "betrayed, dumped" by Prescott, the civil service and the government and left to cope with the flak alone while everyone else focused on protecting the Deputy Prime Minister's reputation.

She added: "Everybody else is giving their version of what I am meant to have done and what I'm meant to have said and what went on. There are only really two people who know. Now the world is going to know."

Tracey also revealed how she performed oral sex on him Monica Lewinsky-style in his Whitehall office.

She told how, in an astonishing abuse of power, they even did it with the door open.

She said: "If I was wearing a skirt he would slide his hand up my leg, under it. He used to stroke my back.

"And yes, I did give him sex in the office a couple of times. We were very lucky we were never caught as we never shut the door."

Tracey revealed how married Prescott demanded sex from her in his grand office-while civil servants worked outside.

Sometimes they did it behind the desk, other times just inside the door.

She told the Mail on Sunday how he would grope her when she went into his office for diary meetings.


He would touch her, kiss her and cuddle her behind his desk and things would go on from there. It was quite risky.

The temptress also recorded in her bombshell sex diaries that Prescott got frisky in the Admiralty boardroom, a government conference room.

Tracey revealed how when she went in to take some notes he touched her breasts and started kissing her.

But in her diaries she said that on more than one occasion she was worried about 67-year-old Prescott's health.

Tracey said their affair lasted two years during which she met Tony and Cherie Blair and all the leading Cabinet ministers. But she believed none of them suspected that anything was going on between them.

She also said she had a close relationship with Prescott's wife Pauline, 66, and never wanted to break up their marriage.

Tracey has always been open about her relationships to her friends, and often boasted about her sex diaries.

She boasted to friends that she liked to record "every kiss, snog, grope, and ****" she ever had."


She explained: "You're only young once, I don't want to forget any of it when I get old and I'm past it!"

As her betrayed ex-fiance Barrie Williams, 46, has revealed, she enjoyed regular boozy nights out with her friends when the conversation would get spicy.

She would regularly start giggling about her hot and heavy affair with her married boss, one of the most famous and powerful men in the country.

She told the pal: "It's fantastic, amazing. He's so strong and confident. He says while we have to be discreet to at least some extent we have nothing to be ashamed of, we're two consenting adults, so why should we skulk in corners when we're together without our partners?"

The pal said: "Tracey told us her affair with Prezza was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to her. She loved talking about it, and told us that she was writing it all down in her diary.

"At the beginning I used to take the mickey out of their sex life, ‘What's it like bedding a pensioner? Does he need Viagra? Does it last more than 30 seconds?' That kind of thing.

"But she soon put me straight on that! She said he was an eager and energetic lover it staggered her. She said he couldn't get enough, and he could go on long after she was tired.

"She insisted he was far more than once a night. Once she came back the morning after a night out when we'd been gossiping about his prowess to tell me, ‘I checked my diary, we DID do it four times in one night once!'

A source close to Prescott—who was at home in Hull last night trying to save his marriage to Pauline, his loyal wife of 44 years—revealed: "John is a big, physical type of person.

"Like Tracey, he is a very tactile person and they just clicked sexually.

"She couldn't keep her hands off him and he responded in kind. She told friends that he was very eager and energetic lover."He was having a lot of dirty fun at his wife's expense."

Sunday, April 23, 2006


EXCLUSIVE: Blair doesn't trust Brown on reforms, say Cabinet two

By Ian Kirby

TONY BLAIR has decided to stay on as Prime Minister until 2009—because he doesn't trust Gordon Brown to deliver his radical reforms.

Two senior Cabinet ministers have told the News of the World he has SCRAPPED his plans to hand over leadership to the Chancellor at the end of next year.

Further proof of the PM's intention to stay in Downing Street comes with news that the Blairs have rented out their "retirement home" in London's Connaught Square for a further year. After that, security renovations to the house are expected to take at least another 18 months.

It indicates Mr Blair will carry out his original promise to serve a FULL third term in office, remaining in Downing Street almost three more years.

Two of his Cabinet colleagues say Mr Blair returned from his Easter break determined to battle on. One told us: "Any talk of him planning an early departure has receded in the past month.

Now there's no departure date at all. When I spoke to him this week he said he had to get the job done—and would be here for as long as that takes."

The other minister added: "He knows he's not going on for ever, but is aware it could take another three years to finish what he has started.

We are now looking at a retirement a few months before the general glection—giving Gordon time to get his feet under the desk."

Lasting reforms of the NHS, schools, the House of Lords and police forces— promised in Labour's 2005 manifesto— are all due to take at least four years.

Mr Blair also bluntly refuses to step down while 7,000 British troops are still deployed in southern Iraq.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


EXCLUSIVE: He's sent to bed early at Harry bash
By Clive Goodman

BOOZY Prince William and his gang of braying pals outraged guests at Prince Harry's passing-out ball with disgraceful drunken antics.

They were so SOZZLED and out of control they could hardly stand, complained VIPs.

And Wills was finally advised to QUIT the glittering black tie bash and go to BED in his Sandhurst quarters.

One of his crowd angered military top brass by POSING as a senior army officer all evening.

Another boasted loudly that he'd lost his wallet to a stag-night HOOKER.

Just hours afterwards Sandhurst's commandant General Andrew Ritchie rang William's office at Clarence House to register the complaints and ask for an explanation.

The prince's private secretary, former SAS officer Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, is now trying to smooth over the row.

But the embarrassment didn't stop Wills going out clubbing the following night—after just one hour's sleep— and partying till dawn.

His astonishing behaviour cast a shadow over little brother Prince Harry's big day when he passed out of the famous military academy as a second lieutenant in the Household Cavalry.

Earlier he had beamed with pride as he shared a joke with his grandmother the Queen during the parade.


But at the ball afterwards William and his loudmouthed cronies astounded guests with the amount of champagne, vodka and beer they guzzled. Their outrageous drunken behaviour got steadily worse as the night went on, before the prince apparently took the advice of senior officers and went to bed early.

A source at Sandhurst, where William, 23, is also training, said: "One of his civvy pals impersonated a brigadier all evening and tried ordering people about. He and the royal gang thought it very funny."

"Another found it highly hilarious to brag about a stag-night encounter with a prostitute and losing his wallet. Nobody else found them funny, but it was typical of their sort of Hooray Henry behaviour.

"These people are upper class twits who should know better.

"Because of the behaviour of Wills and his friends, the prince was ‘advised' to leave the party and go to bed. Which he did.

"But the really surprising thing is it was Prince William behaving in this way, not his brother.

"Prince Harry was as good as gold all night. He was a perfect officer and gentleman."

William's girlfriend Kate Middleton wasn't at the do. She was on the guest list but didn't turn up. However the prince is red-faced and smarting over the complaints. He claims that while he was having a boozy night, the allegations are "much exaggerated". A family friend said: "He admits he and his pals had drunk quite a lot, but says they weren't out of control. William is angry people have been telling tales to the commandant.

"But it's hugely embarrassing that Clarence House got an earful from the general."

Wills told a pal: "I was pretty good all night. I was a bit drunk but not massively so. It's all pretty unfair that the commandant is involved."

Last night a Clarence House spokesman confirmed William's office has been assisting General Ritchie with his inquiry since Thursday.

It is understood that the academy will not be laying a formal charge against William. "We've spoken to Sandhurst and no official complaint has been made. Someone had had a word and that's it," said a spokesman.

As the row erupted, friends of Prince William tried to play it down as "trivial". One said: "There was one lad pretending to be an officer and it seems to have upset some people. News went straight up to the commandant and he started asking questions. "William doesn't want to name the chap or go into detail. He's being admirably loyal to a friend.

"It was a party and they'd had a few drinks, but none of them can remember anything untoward. There was some larking about and boisterousness. He admits going to bed early but says he himself decided to leave."

Meanwhile friends were astounded it was William in trouble. He's seen as the wiser brother to wild Prince Harry. One said: "The fact is William likes to party just as hard as his brother, but he's usually a lot more careful. What will be irking him most is that he and his friends got caught. He usually knows just the right time to go home.

"But at Sandhurst William is no longer surrounded by a gang of cronies all willing to take the blame for him. He has to take it on the chin, whether it's fair or unfair."

As our exclusive pictures reveal, besotted brother Harry, 21, had too much of a handful with stunning girlfriend Chelsy Davy to misbehave.


The couple had obviously recovered from the tiff over his night out at a lap-dancing bar. She wore a new pair of PLATINUM EARRINGS, thought to be a gift from Harry to say sorry.

A pal said: "She was furious at the time about him ogling strippers, but he's hard to stay angry with."

In his smart new Blues and Royals dress uniform he barely left her side all night. A guest said: "They were very sweet together, always touching each other or holding hands.

"I noticed them just swaying together to the music. Chelsy whispered something in his ear and he just pulled her to him and gave her a great big hug. A few minutes later she led Harry on to the dance floor for a slow smooch." Tanned Chelsy, 21, looked sensational in a revealing backless dress, with her blonde locks swept up into a sophisticated hairdo.

"Chelsy clearly adores him and he seemed to be introducing her to just about everyone he knew there," said one Sandhurst source.

The ball boasted a bar with a huge vodka ice fountain. Some guests were getting underneath it to slurp the alcohol straight into their mouths as it trickled down a slab of carved ice. "There was also an alcoholic chocolate fountain and fairground ride," said one guest.

The next evening William led the royal partying again—despite having snatched just ONE HOUR'S sleep.

Although he left the ball early to go to bed, he ended up drinking in the barracks till dawn on Thursday, snatching a few minutes kip before going on parade.

That night he whisked Harry, Chelsy and Kate off to trendy London nightclub Bouji's with friends.

Wills was the last to leave with Chelsy at 3.30am on Friday. Harry left 40 minutes before. And Kate ducked out even earlier at 1.45am.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


By Nicola Stow

A HORRIFIED local from the Scottish village hit by bird flu discovered a SECOND dead swan he fears was also infected.

But he didn't report it because officials failed to announce they were testing for the disease in the area— during the eight days they took to announce the horror virus had struck in Britain.

By then it was too late. The carcass of the swan spotted by Richard Brand had vanished—possibly eaten by, and infecting, other birds or animals.

Richard was out walking his dog with his two kids when he found the swan. It was just 500 yards away from where the infected swan was discovered two days later.

Richard, 47, below, said: "My dog started barking and ran towards an object which had been washed up on the shore. As I got closer I realised she was sniffing at a dead bird—a swan.

"My dog was rolling all over it-she probably licked it too.

"Bird flu never crossed my mind. It's only now, that the scare has emerged, that I think maybe that swan was infected too."

Now Richard is furious about the delayed announcement of the deadly H5NI type of the virus.

He said: "I think it's a disgrace that the authorities left it so long.

"I understand they had to carry out tests, but they could have put out some kind of warning. I could have alerted the authorities if I'd known there was a risk.

"But they took eight days to tell anyone they were testing. By the time I went back to the area, the swan was gone."

The swan confirmed with the disease almost certainly caught the bug after contact with a bird which had flown from Germany, experts said yesterday.

They say the strain of the deadly H5N1 virus is a 99.6 per cent match with an outbreak that devastated the German island of Rugen. The outbreak there occurred in February and caused the infection and death of 100 wild birds and 10 cats.

Boffins believe the swan found dead in Cellardyke, Fife, came into contact with a duck, goose or swan from Rugen. Leading virologist Professor Hugh Pennington said: "There's no doubt the dead swan had been infected by another bird from a place that was already in the midst of an H5N1 outbreak.

"Birds often fly across the North and Baltic Seas to Scotland."

Meanwhile furious bird farmers in the region claim bungling DEFRA chiefs failed to respond swiftly to the bird flu crisis in Scotland because they were on a TRAINING EXERCISE in London.

Donald Peddie, 49, the nearest egg producer to where the infected swan was found, said: "I think perhaps their minds were so much focused on the exercise a real incident slipped past them."

Local farmers are also furious after supermarket ASDA cancelled deliveries of chickens from a supplier inside the bird flu zone. Moira Henderson, of the Scottish Egg Growers' Association, said: "It is an absolute disgrace. Who are they to decide?"

Fourteen other birds tested for bird flu in Scotland were yesterday said to be clear of the disease.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


You say it's time for Blair to leave

By Ian Kirby

NEARLY half the country's voters want Tony Blair out of Downing Street...NOW!

That's the shock verdict of a News of the World poll today—showing that time really is up for the Premier once dubbed Teflon Tony.

The exclusive poll reveals that 42 per cent of voters want him to quit immediately and that 57 per cent—nearly three in five—say he should certainly go within a year.

Today's findings also show how dramatically Mr Blair's support has ebbed away in the past four months, leaving him a lame duck Prime Minister.


When pollsters ICM last asked the question in November 2005 just 28 per cent wanted him to go straightaway. That's now up by another 14 per cent.

Download the full poll results

Since then Mr Blair has been left reeling by a series of body blows, beginning with David Cameron being elected Tory leader—and the Conservatives going ahead in the opinion polls.

In February Labour lost the Dunfermline West by-election, their 11,000 majority smashed by the Liberal Democrats.

And in the past month the party has become embroiled in the "loans for peerages" scandal—with much of the blame for the mess being laid at the door of No 10. Now just 21 per cent of people believe Mr Blair should change his mind and stay on until after the next general election, down four per cent from November.

He has also lost the edge he held over Chancellor Gordon Brown. In June 2004 voters thought Mr Blair would make the best PM by 45 per cent to Mr Brown's 34 per cent. Today, that lead has vanished, with both men standing at 30 per cent.

The current uncertainty over the Labour leadership is having an effect, too, with 15 per cent saying it has made them less likely to vote for the party.

Tory Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said last night: "The poll shows Blair has no authority to tackle any of the key long-term challenges, such as pension reform."

And bookies William Hill last night made Mr Blair 6/5 to go by Christmas.

# ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1012 adults aged 18+ by telephone between 29-30 March 2006. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at