Cruddas: Blair must go

Labour deputy leadership contender Jon Cruddas has said that “the time has come” for Tony Blair’s departure from Downing Street.

Mr Cruddas told the BBC that “the page has turned” on Mr Blair’s premiership, adding pressure on the prime minister to depart before his scheduled exit in summer this year.

“Ten years is an awfully long time to be prime minister of any one country. I think he still shows an extraordinary ability, a sort of durability now,” he said.

“That sort of magic of the early years has changed into a sort of resilient durability, which is very impressive, irrespective of whether you agree with it or not.

“I mean, the stuff he takes is extraordinary. But the page has turned, it’s time to move on.”

His comments follow the publication of an ICM poll in the Sunday Express showing that 56 per cent of Britain’s voters think Mr Blair should leave now, rather than in May or June.

Mr Blair has presented an upbeat front in a series of interviews in recent weeks, focusing on securing his domestic legacy of reforms to the NHS and other public services.

But the momentum behind his agenda has been waylaid by the ongoing cash-for-honours probe, despite no charges having been levelled against him or others linked to the case by the Metropolitan police.

Senior cabinet ministers have openly admitted the damaging impact the probe has had on the Labour party, prompting speculation that the prime minister’s authority is beginning to drain.

But culture secretary Tessa Jowell told the BBC that it was important for Mr Blair’s government to “get on with what people elected us to do”, saying that the cash-for-honours probe should not “become a distraction to the business of government”.