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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
'God willing', Blair stays - Reid
Tony Blair
Speculation about Mr Blair's future will not go away
"God and the electorate willing" Tony Blair will lead Labour into the next general election, Health Secretary John Reid has insisted.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was "as sure as anybody" could be that Mr Blair would keep the top job.

On Wednesday John Prescott suggested Mr Blair could "follow the example of Harold Wilson" who stood down mid-term.

But Mr Reid said the PM was "not thinking about booking his holidays for a long time".

I can tell you you've got a fully engaged prime minister ... he's not thinking about booking his holidays for a long time
John Reid

Speculation about Mr Blair's future was reignited after Mr Prescott hinted that while he would have Labour's full support to lead the party into the next general election, he could be derailed by "events".

His remark follows earlier comments by the deputy prime minister suggesting cabinet ministers were jockeying for position in case Mr Blair stood down.

'Events, dear boy, events'

Asked to explain his latest remarks, Mr Prescott said: "I am convinced, though, from my talks with Tony, of course, that he would like to lead us into that election.

"But he always considers events, events, events."

John Reid
Mr Blair is looking to the future, says Reid
That was taken to be a reference to Tory premier Harold Macmillan, who when asked what would most easily steer a government of course, famously said: "Events, dear boy, events."

But on Thursday, Mr Reid was asked if he thought Mr Blair would continue through the next general election, to which he replied: "I believe so and right through it.

"I'm as as sure that he's going to be doing it as I'm going to be there. I'm as sure as anybody can be, God and the electorate willing.

"We've got the most successful prime minister on record. We've got the finest leader on record."

Parlour game

Mr Reid said if evidence was needed, people should look at the government's long term focus on the health service, which was about "getting a fully engaged scenario".

"I can tell you you've got a fully engaged prime minister because the way he's dealing with these issues and looking forward five years, he's not thinking about booking his holidays for a long time."

Earlier this week Mr Blair refused to say whether he intended to serve a full third term if he wins the next election, dismissing speculation as a Parliamentary "parlour game".

Senior ministers have repeatedly insisted the prime minister has no plans to step down.

On Wednesday, Mr Prescott was pressed about his earlier suggestion that tectonic "plates" were shifting in the parliamentary party.

"What I was saying was some people perceived that was happening and therefore wanted to make statements," he told Today.

Election winner

"Tony Blair has been the most successful prime minister we have had, everybody agrees that.

"Indeed, I can tell you for sure that if he decides, and I am sure he will, that he wants to fight the next election, he would have the full support of the party."

Later at a press conference for the local and European elections on 10 June, Mr Prescott said there was "no doubt" in his mind that Mr Blair would carry on, but "he has to make the decision".

Mr Prescott said he believed Mr Blair would win the election if he was leading Labour.

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