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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Outgoing MP still backing Blair
Colin Pickthall - copyright Labour Party
Colin Pickthall says he has great admiration for Mr Blair
A Lancashire MP who is stepping down at the next general election has pledged his continuing support for Tony Blair.

Colin Pickthall, MP for Lancashire West, was speaking after his Labour colleague Geraldine Smith called on Mr Blair to resign.

Ms Smith, who represents Morecambe and Lunesdale, said the Prime Minister had "lost the trust" of many following intelligence failures regarding Iraq.

But Mr Pickthall said Mr Blair had formidable leadership qualities.

He said: "I think his performance has been psychologically remarkable.

Geraldine Smith, MP
Geraldine Smith said the public were "misled" and Mr Blair should resign

"To have come under the sustained attack he has done - I'm old enough to remember John Major and Harold Wilson coming under the same sort of attack - I think these people are astonishing, the way they stay sane.

"If it were me, I think I would start lashing about me."

The show of support contrasted with his colleague Ms Smith - previously seen as a loyal supporter of Mr Blair - who said her leader had been "fatally damaged" by the Butler Report into intelligence failures.

She told BBC Radio 4's World At One the report showed the public and parliament had been "misled" by Mr Blair.

Thursday night's "disastrous" by-election results, where Labour lost Leicester South and almost lost the safe seat of Birmingham Hodge Hill - showed that Mr Blair had lost the trust of the electorate, she added.

'Political expediency'

Ms Smith said: "Lord Butler's report has revealed that Parliament, the people and the press had all been misled.

"They had not been lied to, but they had just not been told the whole truth.

"I think politicians, and indeed journalists, know that they were misled out of political expediency."

She added: "I think the time has come when Tony Blair's friends need to advise him to go with honour and dignity at a time of his choosing.

"The alternative is going to be to wait until his enemies drag him down, or indeed the British people make that decision for him."

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