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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 00:57 GMT 01:57 UK
New call for Blair to go in 2007
Tony Blair and Chris Smith in 1996
Lord (formerly Chris) Smith was in Tony Blair's Cabinet for four years
Former Culture Secretary Chris Smith has called for Tony Blair to resign as prime minister next year, rather than serving a full third term in power.

He also warned Mr Blair and potential successor Chancellor Gordon Brown not to damage Labour with a war of words.

He said the pair must bear in mind the "broader interests" of their party.

Earlier this week, Commons leader Jack Straw said he thought Mr Blair would leave Downing Street "well before" the next general election.

Mr Blair has promised to leave "ample time" for a successor to settle in before any general election was called.

Lord Smith, who served in Mr Blair's Cabinet from 1997 to 2001, warned that under leader David Cameron, the Conservatives were now "a very real threat".

"For the first time in 15 years, the Tories have an attractive face to the broad mass of the electorate," he told the ePolitix website.

"It's healthy if it keeps Labour on its toes. It's not healthy if it leads to a Tory government because I don't think a Cameron government would be very different from some of the disastrous Conservative governments of the past."

Lord Smith
Lord Smith believes the Tories are now posing "a very real threat"
He called for "an orderly transition in the course of the next year" at the top of the Labour party.

He said he would "very much hope" Gordon Brown became the next leader, with enough time as prime minister "to establish his own style, his own agenda, his own priorities in the public mind before he then fights an election".

Lord Smith added: "I think it is important he has that window of time to do it. What I don't want to see happen is the handover occurring at the very last possible moment.

"I'd like to see it happening at a sensible point."

He acknowledged that the process of changing leaders was rarely smooth and often involved a degree of "turmoil".

But he added: "What I just hope is that people around the present prime minister, people around the future prime minister, people around the various candidates to be the next deputy prime minister, will see that that there are broader interests.

"The party as a whole, the country as a whole has an interest in what happens. They should remember that."

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