Unions put the pressure on Blair

Trade union and Labour party members want Tony Blair to quit well before next autumn, two new polls reveal.

A survey of 1,000 members of the Amicus union finds that three out of four want an immediate change of leadership.

It comes after a poll for Channel Four News last night revealed six out of ten Labour members wanted the prime minister to quit ahead of the May elections next year, and a further 38 per cent thought he should quit by Christmas.

Yesterday Mr Blair made clear he would be out of Downing Street by this time next year, a clarification welcomed by cabinet colleagues, who urged Labour MPs to stop “navel-gazing” and get on with running the country.

But today’s polls suggest there is a mood among grassroots party members for a more immediate handover of power. Proposed departure dates revolve around the elections in the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly next May.

Derek Simpson, the general secretary of Amicus, told journalists last night that unless Mr Blair resigned soon, Labour would lose the next general election.

“The current mess in Westminster is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, blaming the prime minister’s “indifference” to grass roots opposition to many of his policies.

“Our workplace reps are Labour’s foot soldiers and they are now in open revolt such is their frustration over government policy on the issues that affect them, their colleagues and their communities.

“Unless something changes, Labour will lose the next election.”

Mr Blair is due to address the TUC next week, when the unions will have a chance to put their concerns about public sector reform and his leadership to him in person.

A YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph today finds that 55 per cent of voters think Mr Blair should leave by the end of the year, with half saying they think he is now a lame duck prime minister.

However, last night the leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Amos, rejected suggestions that the majority of Labour members wanted Mr Blair out immediately.

“I could point to the emails, the messages that have come into Labour party headquarters and into Number 10, all supporting the prime minister and making it clear that people want him to choose the time that he wants to go,” she told Channel Four News.