Blair: I will leave within a year

Tony Blair has today confirmed he will resign as prime minister within a year, although he refused to set an exact date.

The prime minister apologised to the public for his party’s infighting over the past week, saying it had “not been our finest hour, to be frank”.

In reference to the pressure he has been under from Labour MPs to announce a date, Mr Blair said he would have preferred to announce his departure “in my own way”.

“But as has been pretty obvious from what many of my cabinet colleagues have said earlier in the week, the next Labour conference will be my last party conference as party leader,” he told reporters at a school in north London.

“Next week’s TUC will be my last TUC – probably to the relief of both of us. But I am not going to set a precise date, I do not think that’s right, I will do it at a future date and will do it in the interests of the country, according to the circumstances of the time.

“The precise timetable has to be left up to me and has to be done in a proper way.”

He added that amid the speculation and the recriminations, the Labour party must not forget that “it’s the public that comes first, and the public that matters. You can’t treat them like irrelevant bystanders on a question as important as who is their prime minister”.

In the meantime, Mr Blair said, he wanted to get on with the business of governing.

“There are more important things going on in the world and I think I speak for all my cabinet colleagues that we would prefer to get on with those things, because those are the things that matter and matter to the country,” he said.

“It’s been a somewhat difficult week but I think it’s now time to move on and I think we will.”