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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Blair dismisses rift with Brown
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
Prime Minister Tony Blair has dismissed claims that he and Gordon Brown have fallen out - likening the stories to newspapers' "April Fool" spoofs.

Asked if there was a rift with the chancellor, he said: "Absolutely not."

His comments came after the Observer claimed Mr Brown had been axed from Wednesday's local elections launch.

Downing Street denied any snub, saying Mr Brown had been scheduled to fly to a UN event which was now postponed, leaving him free to join Mr Blair.

Claim and counter-claim

Tensions between Number 10 and Number 11 Downing Street have been well documented, but at the weekend the briefings were reported to have reached "a new pitch".

At the heart of the latest suggestions of a falling out was the impression Mr Blair had excluded Mr Brown from the local election campaign launch.

There have been a lot of April Fool's stories including that I was going to paint the Downing Street door red... I think this story falls into just about the same category
Tony Blair

Meanwhile, Mr Brown was accused of undermining the party's chances in next month's polls by failing to include a council tax rebate for pensioners in his Budget last month.

The suggestion was that this was done deliberately to hasten the prime minister's exit from Downing Street.

These and other allegations have been denied all round, but what has not been denied is that relations between both camps have got worse.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling told the BBC the briefing and counter briefing was doing Labour no good and should cease.

'Soap opera politics'

In a series of television interviews on Monday morning Mr Blair dismissed the speculation.

"There have been a lot of April Fool's stories including that I was going to paint the Downing Street door red... I think this story falls into just about the same category," he said.

"The important thing is, there is the soap opera politics, but the important thing is to get on with the job," he told Sky News.

I believe the best outcome in 2008 would be Gordon Brown to take over as leader and prime minister and I'd certainly support that
Charles Clarke

Mr Blair stressed that he still had "a massive amount to do" in talking about the Olympics and London, and addressing anti-social behaviour, health, welfare and pensions reform and setting up the Serious Organised Crime Agency - seen as Britain's version of the FBI.

He also told an audience of black Christians they had a "crucial campaigning role" in urging respect and tolerance.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he believed the prime minister should serve until 2008, and said he expected there then to be a leadership election.

"I believe the best outcome in 2008 would be Gordon Brown to take over as leader and prime minister and I'd certainly support that."

'Jockeying for position'

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has said there are "tensions" between Labour's two senior figures.

But he told Sky News this was as "inevitable" in government as it was in any family.

"There are a lot of off-stage noises with this and a lot of jockeying for position by various people who brief the papers," he said.

"And I think they should just get on with their jobs rather than with that."

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said the Labour party and Labour government appeared to be "steeped in acrimony", which was "damaging the country".


SEE ALSO:
The balance of power in Downing St
23 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Blair 'could quit by end of year'
31 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Blair admits resignation mistake
27 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Blair to 'tough it out' on Iraq
27 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific


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