Gordon Brown, Britain’s finance minister, has turned down an offer by Tony Blair to hand over power to him around the middle of next year according to a leading Sunday newspaper. It claims the disagreement lies with Blair’s refusal to give a specific date as demanded by Brown, arguing that that would play into the opposition’s hands.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer reportedly fears that if he accepts the deal, he would be forced to back the prime minister’s controversial reforms on schools, pensions and identity cards. Another paper, the Independent, says Downing Street sources have confirmed Blair plans to leave some time next summer. Pressure is growing on the prime minister to name a date following a poor performance by his centre-left Labour party in local elections earlier this month and a series of scandals within the party. Blair, who was re-elected for a second term last year, has repeatedly said he has no intention of going for a fourth mandate and plans to allow a smooth handover of power, giving his successor “ample time” to settle in before the next election. According to a leading Scottish newspaper, speculation over Blair’s departure next year has prompted his closest allies to step up pressure on him to remain until at least 2009.