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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
PM 'will serve full third term'
Tony Blair
Blair's "not in mood to give up", says spokesman
Tony Blair will serve a full third term as prime minister, a senior Cabinet colleague has said.

Health Secretary John Reid said he had no doubts about Mr Blair's intention to stay in Downing Street, "God and the electorate willing".

On Wednesday, Downing Street dismissed reports speculating about how long Tony Blair wants to remain prime minister.

Reports a cabinet minister had been sent out to quash rumours were a "total fabrication", a spokesman said.

Kinnock comments

The point was echoed by Dr Reid, who dismissed the suggestions Mr Blair might be planning his retirement as "misleading and ill-informed speculation".

"Tony Blair will lead us into the next election and, God and the electorate willing, will serve a full third term as the leader of this party and this country.

"I have never been in any doubt about that," Dr Reid told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Speculation about the prime minister's future was fuelled at the weekend by former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who said Mr Blair could quit following a referendum on the EU constitution.

Press blamed

Mr Kinnock said it would be understandable if the PM considered "hanging his boots up" after the poll, expected in around 18 months' time.

His words were seized on by some as a signal of a new deal to allow Chancellor Gordon Brown to succeed Mr Blair as prime minister.

But on Wednesday, Channel 4 News said it had been told by some of the prime minister's "closest colleagues" that despite his problems over Iraq, Europe, immigration and other issues he had definitely decided to go another full term.

Downing Street appeared to distance itself from the briefing and Dr Reid blamed the press for fuelling the rumours.

"It has only become a news story because of the misleading and ill-informed speculation in certain sections of the press," he told Today.

"It is not a news operation either. I have been giving the same answer since at least the Labour Party conference."

Appetite 'undiminished'

He added: "You can't win on this because sections of the press write stories on the basis of what anonymous individuals say and having created furore that the prime minister might go they then, when it is denied, write that up as a new story as well."

On Tuesday, Alan Milburn, the former health secretary and a close ally of Mr Blair, said the prime minister's appetite for the job was "undiminished".

He told Sky News: "I think he wants to carry on, assuming we can get through the next election."




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