[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 13 June, 2004, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Blair wins heavyweight backing
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
John Prescott is confident of winning the next general election
Major Labour figures have denied the government is in "meltdown", and backed Tony Blair to lead the party into the next general election.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told BBC Breakfast with Frost Mr Blair could lead the party to victory, despite poor local election results.

This was mirrored by Chancellor Gordon Brown who denied Mr Blair's leadership had become a "liability" for Labour.

They spoke as the government braced itself for the European poll results.

EUROPE AT THE POLLS
We've got to listen, reflect, examine what has happened
Chancellor Gordon Brown

Questions had been raised over the prime minister's leadership after the Labour government became the first to be pushed into third place in local election results.

The deputy prime minister said his boss was still "up for" leading the party and that he had produced the best Labour policy for decades with a strong economy and good public investment.

In an interview for GMTV's Sunday Programme, Mr Brown said he would not accept that the Blair leadership had become a "liability".

Instead, he also pointed to the prime minister's record, saying: "Tony Blair won for Labour with his leadership in the 1997 and 2001 elections and one must not forget these were the best Labour election results ever."

Chancellor Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown urges Labour to listen to voters

But both Cabinet members warned the government must listen to the message from voters after its drubbing in Thursday's local elections.

Mr Brown put the poor results down to questions over the Iraq policy and "normal mid-term blues" but urged his party to reflect.

He said: "The lessons that we learn is we have got to work even harder. We've got to listen, reflect, examine what has happened.

"But I don't think what we are seeing is a breakthrough on the part of the Conservative Party or indeed any other party," he added.

'Protest vote'

While Mr Prescott said: "In reality there were a lot of protests. Iraq was part of it and we have to take that into account."

He added that he was very encouraged by a BBC exit poll in which people said that they were happy with government policy on health, crime and education.

  Councillors Councils  
PARTY +/- TOT +/- TOT  
CON
283
1714
13
51
LAB
-479
2250
-8
39
LD
137
1283
-2
9
PC
-28
172
-2
1
OTH
13
625
-1
66

Labour pollsters have predicted the party will do worse in the European polls than it did in the local elections - in which it lost 464 council seats and control of eight local authorities.

And some ministers are predicting the UK Independence Party has taken seats from both Labour and the Conservatives.

Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy, who fought the election on an anti-Iraq war platform, predicted his party would do well in the poll.

A total of 78 seats are being contested in the European elections. Voting took place on Thursday, and the first results are due just after 2100 BST.

Turnout across England and Wales was about 40%, up an average of 9% on last year - an increase not confined to the four regions piloting all-postal ballots.

In the European elections, the other 24 EU countries have also been going to the polls, with some 350m voters choosing 732 MEPs altogether.

The results of the local elections to Birmingham City Council are also due be revealed later.


VOTE 2004 IN-DEPTH

LATEST NEWS

ANALYSIS AND FEATURES
Blair's big task
Labour leader needs to reassure his MPs after European election disappointment

VOTERS GUIDE

FORUM

VOTE 2004 RESULT SEARCH

To find out who's won in your area enter your full postcode:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
 
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific