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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 17:28 GMT
Brown 'not asking Blair to move aside'
Chancellor Gordon Brown and Prime Minister Tony Blair after last year's Budget
Blair and Brown's links are under new scrutiny
Downing Street has taken the unusual step of issuing a public denial of reports that Gordon Brown has been asking Tony Blair to stand aside as prime minister.

The statement from Mr Blair's official spokesman follows renewed press speculation about the chancellor's ambitions for the top job in government.

The speculation dates back to when Mr Brown decided to step aside and back Mr Blair's campaign to succeed John Smith as Labour leader in 1994.

The relationship is a vital and strong relationship and remains so

Tony Blair's spokesman
That move has long sparked suggestions that Mr Blair suggested he would at some stage step down as prime minister in favour of his long-time political ally.

On Wednesday, Mr Blair's spokesman said: "Ever since this government was formed people have wanted to say the Blair/Brown relationship was doomed to fail, particularly because of historical precedents.

"The press have not had that and it is frustrating [for them].

"The relationship is a vital and strong relationship and remains so.

"The idea that the chancellor has been asking the prime minister to move over is untrue."

Dinner deal?

The Daily Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday quoted an ally of Mr Blair saying the chancellor was becoming increasingly frustrated.

That was because Mr Blair was not delivering on what Mr Brown believed was a deal to hand over the reins midway through his second term in Number 10.

The source was quoted as saying: "Things are pretty bad. Gordon keeps asking Tony when he is going to go."

Mr Blair's supporters have always privately cast doubt on claims of a deal between the two pair at the Granita restaurant in Islington after John Smith's death.

On Sunday, Mr Blair told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost his relationship with Mr Brown continued to be "extremely strong" and he praised his record as chancellor.

Asked specifically whether Mr Brown would still be chancellor at Christmas, Mr Blair replied: "Well, as I said, he does a fantastic job."

See also:

23 Apr 02 | Politics
02 Dec 01 | Politics
23 Nov 01 | Politics
02 Dec 02 | Politics
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